Big Ben to toll for Brexit as well as New Year
Big Ben — an enduring symbol of Britishness for more than 150 years — will toll as the Brexit transition period ends, the House of Commons said Thursday.
The famous clock, whose chimes feature on television and radio broadcasts, has been under repairs since 2017 and is currently only used on special occasions.
It will strike at 12, 4, 9, 10 and 11:00 pm and then at midnight on December 31 to ring in the New Year, the House of Commons said.
The statement did not attach any particular significance to the 11:00 pm chimes.
But at midnight Brussels time, or 11:00 pm UK time (2300 GMT), Britain will leave the European Union single market and customs union.
The announcement was welcomed by pro-Brexit media.
“Big Ben WILL bong for Brexit!” wrote the Daily Express tabloid.
Big Ben has been under wraps since August 2017 for repairs and restoration of the clock and the tower. It last tolled on Armistice Day on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I.
Huge crowds usually gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve around Big Ben, and as fireworks are set off nearby on the River Thames in central London.
But this year the advice is to stay away due to the coronavirus pandemic and events have been cancelled.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson failed to get the clock to chime at 11:00 pm on January 31 when Britain formally left the European Union.
Britain has since been locked in an 11-month transition period, where EU rules still apply, as it tries to secure terms of its future relationship with the bloc.
Johnson had backed the idea of crowdfunding to pay to restart the clock, coining the slogan: “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong.”
A bob is the equivalent of five pence and a slang expression for money.
The House of Commons authorities refused because of cost, and instead a countdown clock was projected onto the facade of Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office and residence.
“Big Ben” is the name of the bell, while the 315-foot (96-metre) tower holding it is called the Elizabeth Tower.
It was designed in neo-Gothic style by parliament architect Augustus Pugin and was completed in 1856.