Eurosceptic MPs launch bid to have Big Ben chime for Brexit on January 31

'Make Big Ben bong for Brexit': Eurosceptic MPs launch bid to get ceremonial chimes on January 31 written into Boris Johnson's withdrawal bill

‘Make Big Ben bong for Brexit’: Eurosceptic MPs launch bid to get ceremonial chimes on January 31 written into Boris Johnson’s withdrawal bill

  • Members of the European Research Group are now pushing for the amendment
  • Tabled by Marc Francois, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group
  • Plans to have the bell bong for Brexit were previously scuppered by John Bercow
  • But the group hopes with a thumping Tory majority and new speaker it will pass

A group of Eurosceptic MPs have tabled an amendment to Boris Johnson‘s withdrawal bill to make sure Big Ben chimes for Brexit on January 31 – when Britain is due to leave the European Union.

The group, led by Mark Francois, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group – who previously said that Britain would ‘explode’ if it had not left the EU by October 31, 2019 – want the bell to ring out to celebrate the country’s eventual departure from the bloc more than three years after the referendum.

Plans to have the bell bong for Brexit were previously scuppered by John Bercow, the Speaker at the time, as he chaired the parliamentary commission that presided over decisions about Big Ben.

The group want the bell (pictured in 2017 before scaffolding was put up for renovation work) to ring out to celebrate the country's eventual departure from the bloc more than three years after the referendum

 

The group want the bell (pictured in 2017 before scaffolding was put up for renovation work) to ring out to celebrate the country’s eventual departure from the bloc more than three years after the referendum

But the group, including Sir David Amess, Nigel Evans and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, think that with the new speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle – and with a thumping Tory majority in the recent General Election – it could be enshrined in law.

Sir Lindsay last week told The Daily Telegraph that if the Commons supported the bell chime he would allow it.

And speaking the the newspaper, Mr Francois said: ‘I have tabled this new clause to the Brexit Bill to allow the House of Commons to vote on whether or not Big Ben should chime on exit day.’

He added: ‘This amendment would provide the perfect vehicle for the house to express its will and I very much hope it will be selected and then passed into law.’

The group, led by Mark Francois (pictured in October), have tabled an amendment to Boris Johnson's withdrawal bill to make sure Big Ben chimes for Brexit on January 31

 

The group, led by Mark Francois (pictured in October), have tabled an amendment to Boris Johnson’s withdrawal bill to make sure Big Ben chimes for Brexit on January 31

The bell is currently undergoing undergoing a multi-million pound restoration. The 13.7 tonne bell fell silent in August 2017 and is expected to be unveiled by 2021.

It currently only sounds for significant events like Remembrance Sunday, and more recently the new year.

Mr Francois’ amendment will be just one of a number to be considered for debate during the passage of Mr Johnson’s Brexit Bill.

MPs voted by 358 to 234, a majority of 124, on Friday, December 20 to give the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill its second reading before breaking for Christmas.

They will return on January 7 for further debates and votes on the legislation which is needed to deliver an orderly split from Brussels next month.

Mr Johnson was able to win the vote despite facing a storm of criticism from opposition MPs over his decision to remove some concessions from the WAB made by the government during the last hung parliament to win over Labour backbenchers on issues like refugees and workers’ rights.

The government is now hoping to get the WAB onto the statute book by the middle of January to give the European Parliament time to ratify the divorce accord before the deadline.

The news comes as it was revealed Labour is demanding another delay to the Brexit process if a trade deal is not secured by the end of June.

MPs voted by 358 to 234, a majority of 124, on Friday, December 20 to give the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement Bill its second reading before breaking for Christmas (Mr Johnson is pictured in an image posted to his Twitter account on New Year's Day)

 

MPs voted by 358 to 234, a majority of 124, on Friday, December 20 to give the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill its second reading before breaking for Christmas (Mr Johnson is pictured in an image posted to his Twitter account on New Year’s DayThe bell is currently undergoing undergoing a multi-million pound restoration. The 13.7 tonne bell fell silent in August 2017 and is expected to be unveiled by 2021 (the bell is pictured covered in scaffolding in March, 2019)

 

The bell is currently undergoing undergoing a multi-million pound restoration. The 13.7 tonne bell fell silent in August 2017 and is expected to be unveiled by 2021 (the bell is pictured covered in scaffolding in March, 2019)

Jeremy Corbyn has tabled an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill that would extend the transition period until 2023 in the absence of a comprehensive agreement.

Boris Johnson has pledged that the UK will formally leave the bloc on January 31, and his thumping Commons majority following the election should guarantee he can make good on the vow.

But he has also ruled out any lengthening of the implementation phase – essentially a ‘standstill’ where the country is still bound by Brussels rules – beyond this year.

If passed, Labour’s change would force the government to add two extra years to the transition to avoid departing on basic WTO terms.

However, the amendment is doomed to failure given the Tories’ dominant position in Parliament, and could raise alarm on Labour benches that the party will yet again be seen as blocking Brexit.

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