Organisers of a campaign to pay for Big Ben to ring out to mark Brexit have admitted defeat, despite raising £272,770 for the cause.
The Bong for Brexit campaign led by Stand Up 4 Brexit and Tory MP Mark Francois on the GoFundMe website, failed to persuade the House of Commons authorities to allow the bell to ring on the 31 January, when Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.
The appeal fuelled by Boris Johnson’s suggestion that “we are working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong”.
But the House of Commons Commission estimated that the cost of bringing the bell back into use in time for January 31 could be as much as £500,000, which some campaigners and officials say it is not worth the cost.
Last week, the commission said funding the cost through public donations would be an “unprecedented approach” – forcing the government to U-turn and abandon the campaign.
The fundraising drive was cancelled at noon on Monday, with the money raised now being donated to the Help for Heroes military charity.
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Mr Francois said the campaign received more than 14,000 donations from 56 countries in under a fortnight.
“The response from the British people has been fantastic and we are deeply grateful to everyone who donated,” the former minister said.
“However, having made final attempts over the last several days to persuade the House of Commons authorities that Big Ben should chime, we regret to report that we have been unsuccessful and therefore we feel we can no longer ask people to donate.
“We officially closed the fund at noon today.”
He added that “even though Big Ben will regrettably not chime for Brexit” many people “will be celebrating the fact that we become a free country again” at 11pm on January 31.
That was “the greatest prize of all”, he said.