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.
If they were enthusiastic about celebrating Brexit and not embarrassed by it, they would make this commitment. https://t.co/Lvuj62s7Ml
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) January 14, 2020
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 Jan 31.
Between them, 11 people have donated £485.
— Mikey Smith (@mikeysmith) January 14, 2020
Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice suggested the government should fork out for the chimes, because they would “bring the nation together”.
And if snark and outrage were cash, the public would have their bongs for sure, because neither was in short supply.
Richard Tice just said on @LBC that Big Ben bonging for Brexit will ‘bring the nation together’.
What planet are these people on?
— Damon Evans (@damocrat) January 14, 2020
Look if listening to the sounds of a hastily-restored clock bell ringing out in a small, non-residential area of London doesn't heal the political divisions in our country, it is hard to say what will.
— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) January 14, 2020
There were also some creative suggestions for alternative ways for Big Ben to bong.
Instead of paying a fortune to have Big Ben bong on Brexit night, there are two simple alternatives:
1. Play a recording of Big Ben bongs
2. Everyone celebrating in Parliament Square brings their own bell to ring. Wouldn’t that be more fun?
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) January 14, 2020
Why would it cost £500,000 to make Big Ben bong? Can’t I go up there with a loudspeaker? Or just shout BONG at the top of my voice (I’ve got quite a big gob)?
— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) January 14, 2020
Why does it cost so much money to ring a bell?? I will do it for a tenner and a nandos.
— Rachael Ward (@rachaelwrd) January 14, 2020
Others made some more serious points.
My best mate on whether we should spend £500,000 to make Big Ben bong on Brexit Day:
It's f**** pathetic. They could spend that cash on literally anything else. It would genuinely be more useful if they got a bunch of homeless people and set fire to it so at least they'd be warm.
— Femi (@Femi_Sorry) January 14, 2020
Guarantee that the people willing to contribute towards Big Ben going bong for brexit at the cost of £45,454 per bong are the exact same people who look at news of hungry kids across the UK and think “yeah this is sad but I don’t want it solved if it means paying more tax”
— James Felton (@JimMFelton) January 14, 2020
EU campaigner James Melville, meanwhile, wanted to use bong-gate to spark pro-EU defiance.
Why don’t we start a crowdfunder to hire the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to play the EU anthem ‘Ode to Joy’ on a boat on the Thames and light up the London Eye with the EU flag at 11pm on January 31st as a touché to the Big Ben bongs for Brexit. pic.twitter.com/x2ulqdZXzr
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) January 14, 2020
We believe that this tweet speaks for the silent majority.
OK, could some sensible Brexiteers please stand up and draw a line under this Big Ben madness.
— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) January 14, 2020
There are government plans to mark Britain’s exit from the European Union with festivities on January 31, with specific plans to be unveiled in the coming days
The PM’s official spokesman said there was not a “specific government fund” to meet the costs, but added: “If the public wants Big Ben to bong and the money is raised, then that is great.
“We will make sure that - whatever happens in regard to Big Ben’s bongs - January 31 is properly marked. It is a significant moment in our history.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.