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Light shows, coins... but no bong: How Britain is marking Brexit on January 31

Pro Brexit demonstrators hold banners outside Parliament in London, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019.
Pro Brexit demonstrators hold banners outside Parliament in London, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019. Copyright (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)Kirsty Wigglesworth
Copyright (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
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Brexiteers are livid that an attempt to have London's iconic Big Ben 'bong for Brexit' have had to be shelved.


The British government has announced plans for gala events on the night of Jan. 31 when the country officially leaves the European Union after a prolonged political stalemate.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to make a speech that night to mark the occasion after holding a special Cabinet session in the north of England to emphasize his government's plan to spread opportunity northward.

The government plans to mark Brexit by projecting a clock onto the prime minister's official residence at 10 Downing Street that will count down until 11 p.m. when the break takes place.

The entire government neighbourhood of Whitehall is to be illuminated for the occasion as part of a light show, with Union flags flown on all the poles in Parliament Square. The government will also circulate a commemorative coin that will enter circulation that day.

Critics have branded the celebrations a waste of money and pointed to the cost of Brexit to the British economy so far, recently revealed to be more than $170 billion.

David Lammy, a Labour MP, said: "I am not fussed about whether Big Ben bongs on Brexit day. [...] What I care about is the £130 billion and counting that leaving the EU has already cost."

Johnson's government is no longer actively pushing a plan to have the familiar chimes of the Big Ben clock tower sound at 11 p.m. despite a private fundraising push in support of activating the chimes, which are under repair.

The fundraising campaign raised £200,000 of the £500,000 that it was estimated would be required to ring the bells in the tower - which is currently under renovation - before the government announced that it could not accept public money.

Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader, has announced plans for a Brexit Celebration from 9 to 11.15 pm on behalf of the Leave Means Leave campaign.

Meanwhile, Brexit Party activists have responded angrily to the failure to ring Big Ben to mark Britain leaving the EU.

Britain voted in a 2016 referendum to become the first nation to leave the 28-nation EU bloc, but the process has moved more slowly than expected.

A transition period will last until the end of 2020 as negotiators try to forge a trade arrangement between Britain and the remaining EU nations.

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