Big Ben, big bucks: Brexit bell plan hits financial hurdle

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks in the Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast

Francois said earlier in the week that it was "inconceivable" that "the most iconic timepiece on Earth, which is Big Ben", should not be used to mark Brexit.

In the eurosceptic media, there has been speculation of a plot by anti-Brexit "Remainers" to inflate the estimated costs of Big Ben's bongs.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Farage said: "Boris Johnson has misled people into donating money into the Mark Francois initiative and I should think people are pretty angry about that".

Asked whether people should contribute to the appeal, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "I'm just reflecting that the Parliamentary authorities have set out some potential problems".

He added: 'I urge Downing Street to make a clear statement that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet want Big Ben to signal the moment when our great country officially leaves the European Union'.

As a blame game into the fiasco began, Number 10 said it was a matter for the House authorities.

'On the eve of the single biggest change that Britain will undergo - arguably since the end of the Second World War - the House of Commons Commission, it appears, is determined to leave Big Ben mute.

The decision to grant permission for the event comes as the government has yet to explain its own plan to commemorate Brexit.

Mr Francois remarked on Mr Johnson appearing to go back on his word, saying: "As the prime minister effectively initiated this campaign live on TV two days ago, and as we are clearly going to hit the target, he would be mad to back away from it". "Churches are there for the whole community, not for a political faction to crow over people they have beaten", he said.

"The House of Commons authorities rejected the idea after being told it could cost up to £500,000 (585,000 euros, $653,000), which Speaker Lindsay Hoyle noted was about "£50,000 a bong".

"It sounded out the end of the war in Europe, it sounded out the end of the war in Japan, when we joined the European Union... and as we leave, arguably the biggest decision we have made since the end of the war, then the bell I think should sound for that", he told the BBC.

The extraordinary cost is made up of £120,000 to reinstall and test the temporary "bonging" mechanism.

Big Ben is the world-famous bell in British parliament's Elizabeth Tower. If the Government really wanted it they could put forward some sort of motion and they could vote on it.

'I find it unbelievable that this wasn't arranged ahead of time and at reasonable expense just like it has been with every other significant event.



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