Big Ben will bong for Brexit on New Year's Eve as part of clock tests

17 December 2020, 22:01

Big Ben will bong for Brexit as part of routine tests
Big Ben will bong for Brexit as part of routine tests. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Big Ben will bong on New Year's Eve to mark the UK leaving the transition period, the House of Commons has confirmed.

The iconic clock is to be reconnected in time to usher in the start of next year but several tests will go ahead beforehand to ensure everything works as it should - including series of bongs at 11pm on December 31.

It will mark the UK's withdrawal from the EU's single market and customs union and its entry into either no-deal terms or a new trade agreement with the bloc - still being decided at last-ditch talks in Brussels.

Read more: Brexit: 'Substantial progress' made but 'big differences remain' as talks continue

The famous bell has been largely silent since 2017 due to repairs on the clock and Parliament's Elizabeth Tower which houses it, only being reconnected in a hurry for significant occasions.

The bell, which weighs 13.7 tonnes, last rang on November 11 to mark Armistice Day.

Engineers have been working to renovate the clock since 2017
Engineers have been working to renovate the clock since 2017. Picture: House of Commons

Members of the public have been urged to stay away from Westminster on New Year's Eve due to coronavirus restrictions.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said "no-one should be gathering in large groups to see in the new year".

Read more: Michael Gove says chance of Brexit deal 'less than 50%'

Tough Tier 3 restrictions will be in place in London and across large parts of England on the day - with Wales and Northern Ireland returning to a full national lockdown.

The bell will be tested in the days leading up to NYE to ensure it can produce its 12 bongs when the clock strikes midnight.

A major row erupted over Big Ben bonging on Brexit Day earlier this year
A major row erupted over Big Ben bonging on Brexit Day earlier this year. Picture: PA Images

A row erupted earlier this year when Brexiteers tried to get the bell to ring in the moment the UK left the European Union on January 31.

LBC's Nick Ferrari even pledged to pay for the clock to ring out for the occasion - but the suggestion was rejected by the House of Commons due to logistical and financial problems.

Read more: Michel Barnier: 'Good progress' in talks on a post-Brexit trade deal

Instead, an image of the clock was projected onto Downing Street to celebrate the moment.

Hundreds gathered in Parliament Square with their own makeshift clocks and speakers.

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