Brexit has had many twists and turns - but will it be marked with Big Ben’s bongs?
This is the debate occupying the great minds of the political class as 2020 gets into full swing in the UK.
More than three years after the 2016 referendum, the UK will finally leave the EU at the end of January. At 11pm on January 31, to be precise.
Brexiteers such as Nigel Farage will be celebrating and think it is fitting that the bell in Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower - known as Big Ben - should ring out to distinguish this seminal moment in Britain’s history.
But there is a problem. Big Ben is currently not chiming at all due to major restoration works and prime minister Boris Johnson has said the government will not fund a one-off Brexit bong.
It is thought the standalone chimes would cost £500,000 - or £45,454 per bong for the 11 bongs - as Big Ben’s clapper must be temporarily re-installed.
The government have rejected my idea for them to underwrite the cost of Big Ben bonging on Jan 31st.— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 14, 2020
If they were enthusiastic about celebrating Brexit and not embarrassed by it, they would make this commitment. https://t.co/Lvuj62s7Ml
Johnson initially suggested that the Great British public might like to club together to fund the bongs.
He told the BBC in his first big interview of the year/decade: “We are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong.
“Because as everybody knows Big Ben is being refurbished they seem to have taken the clapper away, so we need to restore the clapper in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night.
“That is expensive, so we’re looking at whether people can fund it.”
But Downing Street was forced to later admit that there was no specific organised page and take-up of his offer has so far been limited, with various crowdfunding pages struggling to break the £500 mark between them.
There are currently 22 individual crowdfunder pages on GoFundMe to raise funds to ring Big Ben on...