Countdown clock to be projected on to Downing Street to mark 'Brexit Day'

17 January 2020, 22:36

Big Ben will not bong as it stands
Big Ben will not bong as it stands. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A countdown clock will be projected on to No 10 under government plans to commemorate Brexit Day.

Whitehall buildings will be lit up as part of the light show on 31 January and Union Flags will be flown on all the poles in Parliament Square.

A commemorative Brexit coin will come into circulation on exit day, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson expected to be among the first recipients of the newly-minted 50p pieces.

The UK leader will chair a special Cabinet meeting in the north of England on the day, where ministers will discuss their plans to spread prosperity and opportunity across the UK.

He will then address the nation in the evening.

Boris Johnson has been accused of misleading the public
Boris Johnson has been accused of misleading the public. Picture: PA

The plan was revealed by the government after being pressured to back a bid for Big Ben to chime at 11pm.

On Tuesday, Mr Johnson said his government was "working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong" after Commons authorities ruled out the idea, saying it could cost half-a-million pounds.

Downing Street has since distanced itself from the campaign, with a No 10 spokesman saying the matter is for MPs and that the prime minister's focus is on the government's plan to mark the historic day.

Mr Johnson has been accused of misleading the public over his "bung a bob" suggestion after more than £225,000 was donated to the campaign.

Supporters are set to be disappointed as it was revealed money donated to the cause could not be used.

However, arch Brexiter Mark Francios told LBC's Iain Dale he was confident the bell could ring to mark the moment the country leaves the EU.

"The money is pouring in, I'm pretty confident we're going to hit the target," Mr Francois said, "and then there's no reason why technically we can't do it."

But, on Thursday night the House of Commons Commission - chaired by the Speaker - said the money could not be used because of parliamentary rules on financial donations.

This immediately kicked off a Westminster blame game with the committee holding Mr Johnson responsible for failing to check whether it was possible to sound Big Ben before encouraging the public to donate money.

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