Brexiters have funnelled over £150,000 into a fundraising campaign to ring Big Ben to mark Brexit Day on 31 January – but the cash could not be enough, the Prime Minister has warned.
The “Big Ben must bong for Brexit” campaign, set up by Stand Up 4 Brexit, is seeking to raise the £500,000 required to ring in the UK’s departure from the EU on a GoFundMe page.
But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman has admitted there could be “difficulties” in accepting any cash raised.
“The House of Commons authorities have set out that there may be potential difficulties in accepting money from public donations,” he said.
“I think the PM’s focus is on the events which he and the government are planning to mark 31 January. It’s a significant moment in our history and we want to ensure that’s properly recorded.”
Asked whether that renders the fundraiser pointless, he said: “I’m just reflecting that the parliamentary authorities have set out some potential problems and our focus is on the events that the government is currently working on.”
The campaign has so far raised £158,182, with people putting their donations in the names of Remainer campaigners like Hugh Grant (with a £5 donation), Benedict Cumberbatch and Gary Lineker.
As of this morning, 10,100 people have donated to the fundraiser, which must raise the cash by the weekend due to the time it would take to prepare Big Ben.
“Under Article 50, by law, the United Kingdom will formally leave the European Union at 11pm GMT on Friday 31 January. This means that those who wish to celebrate this historic moment will need to look to a clock to mark the time (exactly as on New Year’s Eve),” organiser Stand Up 4 Brexit wrote on the fundraising page.
“The natural choice for this would be Big Ben but because it is currently undergoing refurbishment, special measures would have to be put in place, which could cost up to £500,000. The aim of this campaign is to raise this money by public donation, so that Big Ben can chime to mark this momentous occasion.”
Number 10 has said there will be government-funded celebrations for Brexit Day, with full details due later this month.
Big Ben has been quiet since 2017 in the midst of refurbishment work to the Elizabeth Tower. The Commons has warned that it would cost £120,000 alone to restore London’s famous bell to the tower, where it is housed, as well as install a temporary floor for the belfry and to test the bell.
The Commons Commission has said “any novel form of funding would need to be consistent with principles of propriety and proper oversight of public expenditure”.