Big Ben is to be reconnected so that it can ring in at 11pm on New Year’s Eve – the moment the UK leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.
The famous bell has been largely silent since 2017 due to repairs on the clock and Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower which houses it, only being reconnected for significant occasions.
The bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes, last rang on November 11 to mark Armistice Day.
Members of the public have been urged to stay away from Westminster on New Year’s Eve due to coronavirus restrictions with Boris Johnson saying “no-one should be gathering in large groups to see in the new year”.
But now the bell will be tested in the days leading up to New Year’s Eve to ensure it can produce its 12 bongs when the clock strikes midnight – as well as 11pm at the end of the Brexit transition period.
The repairs meant Tory Brexiteer MP Mark Francois was unable to fulfil his ambition to get the clock to bong at 11pm on January 31 when the UK officially left the EU.
An appeal to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong” – initially supported by Boris Johnson – raised £272,770 before Francois accepted defeat.
The money in the end was donated to Help for Heroes, but not before Francois suggested he would go up and ‘bong’ it himself with a hammer.