The 'world's most iconic timepiece' will not chime to mark the UK's exit from the EU, Downing Street has indicated
Downing Street has indicated that Big Ben, the bell inside the UK parliament's Elizabeth Clock Tower will not chime for Brexit, despite a campaign by a pro-Brexit Conservative MP and money raised via the GoFundMe website.
The UNESCO-protected 19th-century building is currently undergoing a multi-million-pound restoration and its giant clock has been silenced to protect the hearing of construction workers.
Furthermore, the clock mechanism has been removed to another location and sections of the necessary flooring are missing.
Since 2017, Big Ben has only chimed for significant national events, such as Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve; weeks of work are geared around the renovations to make sure these occasions happen.
Pro-Brexit politicians had wanted the 16-ton bell to chime symbolically at 23:00 on January 31 — midnight in Brussels — to mark Britain’s official exit from the EU.
'Important moment in our national story'
“Big Ben should bong for Brexit,” Conservative MP Mark Francois had told the House of Commons earlier this week, to a mixture of cheers and derision.
"As we leave at a precise, specified time, those who wish to celebrate will need to look to a clock to mark the moment,” he said. “It seems inconceivable to me and many colleagues that that clock should not be the most iconic timepiece in the world, Big Ben."
Brexit minister Stephen Barclay responded by avoiding the issue, saying it was a matter for House of Commons officials, who have refused previous requests.
“This is an important moment in our national story and I’m sure they will want to reflect that in the appropriate way,” he said.
Francois even put forward an amendment to the Brexit bill in an attempt to force Big Ben to be sounded by law. The amendment failed, but the MP is determined to take his campaign to Commons officials. He has reportedly even pledged to climb the tower and sound the bell himself.
Patrick Grady, and MP with the anti-Brexit Scottish National Party, mocked the proposals.
"It's not going to be a moment of celebration for many people across the UK, it's going to be a moment of considerable concern, not least my constituents who are citizens or nationals of the European Union," he told the House of Commons. "And perhaps what they should be asking on that side of the house, if they do want to hear the bells chime, is for whom the bell will toll."
Party in Parliament Square — maybe
Work on parliament’s Elizabeth Tower and clockface, one of Britain’s most photographed buildings, is not due to be completed until 2021.
Whatever House of Commons officials decide, Brexit looks to be a noisy affair outside parliament, as pro-Brexit politician Nigel Farage is promoting a party in Parliament Square.
A Brexit Celebration website promises to update potential revellers once the party is approved by city officials in London — a city which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and whose mayor campaigned firmly against Brexit.