Boris Johnson has urged the public to chip in to a crowdfunding campaign so that Big Ben can ring out to celebrate the UK’s departure from the EU.
The Prime Minister called on Brits to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” after it emerged that the projected costs of the celebratory chimes had spiralled to half a million pounds.
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, Johnson said: “We need to restore the clapper, in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night, and that is expensive.”
However, he expressed optimism that a crowdfunding push would help bring back the bongs to the big British bell.
The issue of whether the bell would ring to mark the UK’s departure from the European Union was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission yesterday but was dismissed over financial and logistical concerns, according to the Telegraph.
The meeting was told the estimated costs had rocketed from £120,000 to £500,000 because the floor supporting the temporary equipment needed to strike the 13-tonne bell — which is undergoing restoration works — had been removed.
Replacing the floor and equipment, and then removing it, would dramatically increase costs, the committee was told.
Some 60 MPs had previously signed a letter calling on the government to ring the bell symbolically at 11pm on 31 January to mark Brexit.
But the Commission concluded that the cost of ringing Big Ben would be excessive, and that there were logistical concerns with just over two weeks to go until Brexit day.
“No-one in the meeting thought it was worth spending £500,000 on having Big Ben strike the hour on one occasion,” an unnamed source told the Telegraph.
“When you consider what else that money could be spent on, it’s very hard to make an argument in favour of it.”
But Conservative MP Mark Francois, who spearheaded the original call for Big Ben to bong, told the paper he was “very disappointed” with the decision, but suggested a recording of the chimes could be played as a “last resort”.
He added: “What was the cost of it chiming on New Year’s Eve? What was the cost of it chiming on Remembrance Sunday?”
“I’ve already offered to go up Big Ben myself, ably assisted by Bill Cash ring the bell myself, to save money,” said Francois.
“If all else fails the BBC must have a recording of Big Ben chiming they could play at 11pm at no cost whatsoever to taxpayers.”
Big Ben is undergoing a major restoration project, and since 2017 has only chimed for significant national events such as Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve.
Its giant clock has been silenced during the works to protect the hearing of construction workers.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had previously applied for permission to hold a party in Parliament Square to listen to the celebratory bongs, with 12,000 people applying for tickets in the first 24 hours since they were advertised last week.