Big Ben won't bong on Brexit Day due to concerns over public donations, Downing Street confirms

REVIEW OF THE DECADE File photo dated 18/8/2014 of a specialist technical abseil team clean and inspect one of the four faces of the Great Clock, otherwise known as Big Ben, at the Houses of Parliament, in central London, as they undertake essential maintenance and cleaning of the four faces.
The government has distanced itself from a campaign for Big Ben to chime when Britain leaves the EU at 11pm on 31 January. (PA)

Downing Street has distanced itself from a fundraising campaign set up to make Big Ben “bong” on Brexit Day.

The decision comes just days after Boris Johnson said he was “working up a plan” and asked the public to “bung a bob for Brexit bongs”.

On Wednesday the Stand Up 4 Brexit group launched an appeal to raise £500,000 by the weekend so the famous bell could ring out on 31 January – and by Thursday afternoon it had reached £100,000 of its goal.

But the House of Commons Commission said funding the cost through public donations would be an “unprecedented approach” – forcing the government to U-turn and abandon the campaign.

The government said on Thursday it will now focus on its own plans to mark Brexit Day.

The prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “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.”

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Asked whether people should contribute to the appeal, the spokesman said: “I’m just reflecting that the Parliamentary authorities have set out some potential problems. Our focus is on the events that the government are currently working on.”

The Stand Up 4 Brexit campaign had raised more than £100,000 by Thursday afternoon, while other smaller fundraising drives were also listed on the GoFundMe website.

The campaign pledged that if it fell short of its target, the money raised would be donated to charity Help for Heroes.

Scaffolding surrounds the Elizabeth Tower housing the Big Ben clock of Britain's Parliament in London, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed that Britain will leave the European Union on the scheduled date of Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal governing future relations with the bloc. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
The 160-year-old Elizabeth Tower is currently undergoing renovations. (AP)

Tory MP Mark Francois, who personally donated £1,000, said on Thursday: ”This is a real demonstration of people power. Britons are donating more than £80 a minute to the campaign.

“We urge the British public to beat the bureaucrats. Please come together, share the campaign, and ensure that we properly celebrate becoming a free country.”

The 160-year-old Elizabeth Tower – the tower that houses the bell known as Big Ben – has been undergoing a £60m renovation since 2017.

But the clock's once-hourly chimes have been silenced to protect the hearing of construction workers in the tower.