Brexit: Big Ben can ring out to mark Britain’s exit from EU, says Speaker Lindsay Hoyle

Brexiteers express delight as John Bercow’s successor says he won’t ‘stand in the way’ of commemorative bongs on 31 January

Adam Forrest
Sunday 22 December 2019 14:39
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Sir Lindsay Hoyle: My office is open to all

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the newly elected speaker of the House of Commons, has said he would allow Big Ben to sound out to mark Brexit at the end of next month.

Although a commission led by his predecessor John Bercow blocked any “celebratory” bongs ahead of the UK’s previous scheduled departure from the EU on 29 March, Sir Lindsay said he was “not going to stand in the way” if MPs choose to mark the expected exit.

The speaker said Big Ben would be heard if MPs support a motion put forward by Conservative Eurosceptics to have the iconic clock chime at 11pm on 31 January.

“If that’s what the house wants, I’m not going to stand in the way because of my view,” he told The Telegraph. “My view doesn’t matter.”

“It will be a significant moment and people will do different things, and if the house wishes to do that, so be it. I certainly won’t personally block anything.”

A group of more than 50 Tory MPs have backed the early day motion put forward by ardent Brexiteer Mark Francois.

“It seems inconceivable to me and my colleagues that Big Ben would not form part of a national celebration to leave the EU,” said the deputy chairman of the European Research Group.

The Leave.EU campaign group welcomed Sir Lindsay’s comments and described Mr Bercow as a “toad” in a series of tweets. “This guy gets it … What a refreshing change from the sanctimonious anti-Brexit toad who preceded him.”

The tower has been covered in scaffolding since restoration work began in 2017

The House of Commons commission, chaired by Mr Bercow when he was speaker, decided there would be no commemorative Big Ben bongs on March 29, the date on which Brexit was originally due to take place before an extension was granted.

Elizabeth Tower, which houses the clock popularly known as Big Ben, is currently undergoing a £60m restoration – but its bell did peal for Remembrance Sunday and is also set to mark New Year.

Eloise Todd, chief executive of anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain, is among the Remain campaigners who have ridiculed the idea of using it to mark Brexit.

“For whom the bell tolls might be joyful for a couple of a Brexiteers … but Brexit, for others, means economic uncertainty and being poorer. That is not something I want to herald with bells.”

Sir Lindsay said on Sunday that Mr Bercow should be given a peerage to the House of Lords.

“My view is every speaker has been offered a peerage, so custom and practice says that’s what’s always happened,” Sir Lindsay told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Pienaar’s Politics programme.

“It doesn’t have to be taken but, personally, I think if that has always happened then we should continue with that.

“I think it should be offered to him. He has served the house, he served for 10 years, he did some great things. And that’s what makes the difference.”

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