Boris Johnson has suggested that the public can crowdfund the £500,000 costs of bonging Big Ben to celebrate the UK’s exit from the EU.
Following calls from arch-Leave MP Mark Francois to strike the bell at 11pm on January 31, the prime minister said the government is working up a plan for people to contribute to the costs.
The House of Commons Commission earlier agreed that the estimated cost of refurbishing the tower for the sake of one occasion was hard to justify.
Johnson told the BBC: “The bongs cost £500,000 but we’re working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong because there are some people who want to,” he said.
“Because 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.
“And that is expensive, so we’re looking at whether the public can fund it.”
The bell has been silenced for the safety of workers during the four-year restoration of Elizabeth Tower, and the House of Commons Commission has agreed that the estimated cost of the celebratory striking of the bell – which spiralled from £120,000 – was not worth it.
A 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.”
The increased cost estimate factors in the need to install and then remove a temporary floor in order to ring the bell.
As a surrogate exercise, Leave.EU has launched a campaign to persuade local churches to ring their bells at the Brexit hour – which was quickly disavowed by the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers.