In Brief

Will Big Ben bong for Brexit day?

Eurosceptics defying Bercow ban to demand ringing of Great Bell

More than 50 MPs have launched a campaign for Big Ben to chime to mark Brexit “freedom” day.

Former House speaker John Bercow was head of a Commons committee that blocked a motion for the bell to be rung on 29 March, the original deadline for Britain to quit the EU. But he has since been replaced as Commons boss by Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

And now a group of Eurosceptics have requested that 31 January be added to the list of special occasions for which Big Ben tolls.

The 160-year-old Elizabeth Tower in which the bell sits is currently undergoing a £60m restoration, and has been silenced to protect the hearing of construction workers at the site. 

The only exceptions are moments of great national significance, with Big Ben ringing on Remembrance Sunday and due to chime again to bring in the New Year - and if the Brexiteer MPs have their way, a few weeks later too.

The politicians include a number of members of the European Research Group, which is behind the tabling of a motion to have the Brexit bongs issue debated in Parliament, says The Telegraph.

The early day motion urges Commons authorities “to make arrangements to ensure that Big Ben will chime at 11pm” on 31 January - the moment when the UK formally quits the bloc - “to provide an appropriate national focus for this truly historic event”.

The signatories include former Brexit secretary Iain Duncan Smith and members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

Mark Francois, who is leading the group, told The Telegraph: “We are now in a new era, and it seems inconceivable to me and my colleagues that Big Ben would not form part of a national celebration to leave the EU.”

Should his bid fail, however, alternatives have been suggested.

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