“Because, as everybody knows, Big Ben is being refurbished. They seem to have taken the clapper away, so we need to restore the clapper in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night. That is expensive,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC on Tuesday.
He said that $650,000 would be required and that “we’re looking at whether the public can fund it.”
But Johnson sought to reassure viewers that he wouldn’t give up so easily. “[W]e’re working up a plan so that people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong, because there are some people who want to,” he told the BBC.
Critics, who have long warned that Brexit would make Britain poorer rather than better off, may find Johnson’s proposed solution upsetting.
U.K. authorities attributed the cost to the need for installing a temporary floor in the clock tower and suspending restoration work for several weeks, according to the BBC.
Since the bell fell mostly silent in 2017, similar temporary mechanisms have been used on New Year’s Eve and other occasions to make it chime.
A government spokesman did not provide details about the proposed solution, saying, “The prime minister’s words speak for himself.”
Johnson’s enthusiasm for the Brexit day bell-ringing is far from ubiquitous in a country still deeply divided over the prospect of leaving the E.U.
David Lammy, a member of Parliament from the opposition Labour Party, tweeted that he was “not fussed about whether Big Ben bongs on Brexit day.”
“But what I care about is the £130bn and counting that leaving the EU has already cost,” he wrote.