No Big Ben bongs: UK government plans light show to mark moment of Brexit


FILE PHOTO: British Union Jack flag flies in front of the clock face of Big Ben in London, Britain August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street residence will be lit up with a countdown to Britain’s exit from the European Union on Jan. 31, as part of a light display to mark the moment of Brexit, the government said on Friday.

Johnson had proposed a crowdfunding campaign to allow the Big Ben bell in parliament’s clock tower to sound even though it has been largely silent since 2017 while renovation work is carried out on the tower.

Members of the public have donated more than 200,000 pounds ($260,580) of the 500,000 pounds Johnson said it would cost for Big Ben to bong, but the government has now said parliamentary authorities do not believe they would be allowed to accept the money.

“January 31st is a significant moment in our history as the United Kingdom leaves the EU and regains its independence,” Johnson’s office said in a statement setting out its plans to mark Brexit – a moment which will be celebrated by some and mourned by others in a country still divided on the issue.

“The government intends to use this as a moment to heal divisions, re-unite communities and look forward to the country that we want to build over the next decade.”

On the evening of Jan. 31, Johnson will address the nation, his office said. Earlier in the day he will hold a special meeting of his top team of ministers in northern England.

The government said it plans to broadcast the light display in Downing Street on social media, including a clock counting down to 2300 GMT, the moment Brexit officially takes place. Other buildings around the government district of Whitehall will also be lit up.

The Union Jack be flown on all of the flag poles around Parliament Square, where Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has been given permission to hold a party with speeches and music.

A commemorative Brexit coin, inscribed with the words “Peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations”, will also be put into circulation on the day Britain leaves the EU, the government said.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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