Big Ben bong for Brexit fundraiser raises £150,000 despite fears public's cash will be rejected

Sean Morrison
Big Ben is currently undergoing restoration work: PA Archive/PA Images
Big Ben is currently undergoing restoration work: PA Archive/PA Images

Brexiteers are still pouring cash into a fundraising campaign that seeks to have Big Ben ring to welcome in Brexit despite fears the public’s cash will be rejected.

Stand Up 4 Brexit's "Big Ben must bong for Brexit" campaign had raised just over £150,000 of its £500,000 target on the GofFundMe website by Friday morning.

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official spokesman earlier admitted that there could be “potential difficulties” in accepting the money raised by the campaign.

Those who wish to celebrate Britain leaving the EU on January 31 will want to do so in the same manner as New Year's Eve - by looking at a clock, the campaign's organisers wrote online.

"The natural choice for this would be Big Ben but because it is currently undergoing refurbishment, special measures would have to be put in place, which could cost up to £500,000," a statement by StandUp4Brexit founder Rebecca Ryan and Mark Francois MP added.

"However, because there is a lead time to make the necessary preparations, we would need to raise this amount by this weekend."

But the Prime Minister's official spokesman on Thursday said: "The House of Commons authorities have set out that there may be potential difficulties in accepting money from public donations.

"I think the PM's focus is on the events which he and the Government are planning to mark January 31. It's a significant moment in our history and we want to ensure that's properly recorded."

Mr Francois had earlier accused the House of Commons authorities of exaggerating the cost of bringing the bell which has been silent since 2017 back into operation.

He added that the campaign hopes to get contributions "from across the four nations of the United Kingdom, what the Prime Minister likes to call the 'awesome foursome"'.

Mr Francois said it is "inconceivable" that the clock used to mark the UK's departure from the EU "could be any other than the most iconic timepiece on Earth, which is Big Ben".

He finished his appeal by saying "please give an amount an amount on this website now so we can properly celebrate becoming a free country again".

Before his spokesman appeared to admit defeat, the PM had said on BBC Breakfast on Tuesday that the Government was "working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong".

Donations to the campaign include £1,000 from Mr Francois, while Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom promised £10.

There were also small donations from "Dominic Grieve", "Jeremy Corbyn" and "John Bercow" but these were all thought likely to be fake names.

Restoring the bell was discussed at a meeting of the House of Commons Commission on Monday, but it was ruled out after it was revealed it could cost £500,000.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who is chairman of the commission, said: "You are talking about £50,000 a bong."

Whether Big Ben bongs or not, Brexiteers intend to gather outside Parliament to mark the UK's departure from the EU.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said the Leave Means Leave campaign group had been been given approval to hold an event in Parliament Square on January 31.

"It is a big moment in the history of this nation to celebrate," he said.

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