Boris Johnson has unveiled plans for a light show in Downing Street on Brexit night.
This comes as he has attempted to defuse a row over his failure to get Big Ben to sound that evening.
The Prime Minister will address the nation from inside No 10 as a clock counting down to the moment Britain leaves the EU at 11pm on January 31 is projected on to the outside.
The Prime Minister has unveiled plans for a light show in Downing Street on Brexit night. Pictured: Boris Johnson stuck on a zip-line in Victoria Park, London
Buildings around Whitehall will be lit up and Union Jacks will be flown in Parliament Square.
Leading Tory Eurosceptics dismissed the plan as an inadequate substitute for the Big Ben bell being heard.
No 10 was also forced to defend its decision to stage the countdown in Downing Street, which is not accessible to members of the public.
However, aides insisted that the public will be able to watch it on television and on social media sites such as Facebook.
As part of the official plans to mark the country’s departure from the EU, the commemorative Brexit coin will come into circulation on January 31.
The Prime Minister is expected to be one of the first to receive a newly minted 50p piece.
This announcement comes after Mr Johnson attempted to defuse a row over his failure to get Big Ben to sound that evening
Mr Johnson will hold a special meeting of his Cabinet in the North of England on exit day, when ministers will discuss the Government’s plans to spread prosperity and opportunity across the UK. He will then make a special televised address to the nation in the evening.
It is understood the Prime Minister will use the speech to call for the country to unite and move forward as one.
Sources said Mr Johnson wants Brexit day to be a ‘healing moment’ where old divisions are left behind.
‘No automatic deportation’
Britain will not automatically deport EU citizens who fail to apply for settled status before the 2021 deadline, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has assured Brussels.
It emerged yesterday that he made the pledge to Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, during talks in London.
Mr Verhofstadt said he had been told the Home Office would consider those who missed the deadline on a case-by-case basis and potentially still grant settled status.
It came as France told Boris Johnson it will not be bounced into a post-Brexit trade deal by the end of the year.
It accused the Prime Minister of trying to put a ‘straitjacket’ on the EU and said ‘if we need six more months, it’s worth taking them’.
Earlier this week, the Prime Minister claimed the Government was ‘working up a plan so people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong’.
But Downing Street yesterday admitted that even if £500,000 is raised – the amount Commons authorities have said it will cost to ring the bell – it is still unlikely to happen.
Prominent Brexiteers last night criticised No 10’s newly unveiled proposals for the light show and televised address.
Former Conservative leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said: ‘Nothing can replace the bell. No light shows, no laser beams, no ‘parties’.
‘All the British people really want is for the bell – which has been sounded out in all the key moments of the nation’s history – to chime at 11pm when we leave the EU.’
He added: ‘We don’t need parties or extravagances, we just need to hear that magnificent and sonorous bell.’
Mark Francois, who has led the parliamentary campaign for Big Ben to bong for Brexit, added: ‘These preparations are all very well, but they are no substitute for the most iconic clock in the world chiming out freedom.’
Nigel Farage, who is planning a Brexit night rally in Parliament Square, has accused the Government of being ’embarrassed’ by Brexit.
This comes as Tory Brexiteers accused the Commons of deliberately inflating the cost of ringing Big Ben on the night of January 31. Figures released yesterday showed it cost just £14,200 to sound the bell on New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.
But the House of Commons commission has claimed it will cost up to £500,000 to bring Big Ben back into use for Brexit.
No 10 was also forced to defend its decision to stage the countdown in Downing Street, which is not accessible to members of the public
The estimate includes £120,000 to build a temporary floor in the belfry and reinstall the temporary ‘bonging’ mechanism. They also said this would delay renovations by up to four weeks at a cost of £100,000 per week.
Fresh doubt was cast on the extraordinary figures yesterday as the cost of bringing the bell back into use on previous occasions were disclosed.
Mr Francois claimed that this proved ‘officials have deliberately inflated’ the £500,000 estimate, and called on Mr Johnson to force officials to ring the bell on Brexit day.
Leave.EU founder and millionaire businessman Arron Banks donates £50,000 to campaign to make Big Ben bong for Brexit as pressure grows on Boris Johnson to ‘overrule’ Parliament and stop it blocking the plan
Millionaire businessman and Leave.EU founder Arron Banks has given the campaign to make Big Ben bong for Brexit a massive boost after pledging £50,000 to the cause.
The donation from Mr Banks, a former Ukip donor, and the Leave Means Leave group means fundraising efforts are now almost halfway to the £500,000 needed in theory to get the bell up and running.
However, even if the target is reached it still seems unlikely that Big Ben – currently mothballed as it undergoes a major overhaul – will be brought back into service at 11pm on January 31.
The House of Commons Commission has suggested it would be unable to accept public donations to pay for the necessary work which means the fundraising efforts could end up being for naught.
Boris Johnson initially backed the fundraising campaign but Downing Street has gone cold on the idea, blaming the ‘intransigence’ of parliamentary decision-makers for blocking the bongs plan.
Senior Brexiteers led by Sir Iain Duncan Smith are now urging Mr Johnson to ‘overrule’ Parliament and allow members of the public to pay for Big Ben to bong.
Sir Ian told The Telegraph: ‘I beg the Prime Minister to step up and tell the Commission they’ve got this wrong, and he and the government will overrule it unless they change their mind.’
The government has said it will shortly announce its own plans for marking Brexit. It was claimed this afternoon that those plans could include a speech by the PM designed to unite the nation.
The Stand Up For Brexit group which has organised the fundraising campaign has said that if it fails to raise the full £500,000 the money will be given to the Help for Heroes military charity.
Arron Banks and the Leave Means Leave group have apparently donated £50,000 to the Big Ben Brexit fundraising campaign
Sir Iain Duncan Smith has urged the government to ‘overrule’ the House of Commons Commission and allow Big Ben to bong for Brexit
The campaign, organised by StandUp4Brexit, has until this weekend to raise the bumper figure or all the money will likely go to the military charity Help for Heroes
Mark Francois, a Tory MP and one of the architects of the fundraising campaign, announced Mr Banks’ donation this afternoon.
He told the BBC: ‘We’re at £166,000 and I can now make a formal announcement.
‘Following telephone calls this morning, Leave Means Leave and Arron Banks have now donated £50,000 towards the campaign.
‘We are now not far short of £220,000, and by the end of the day we probably won’t be a million miles away from having raised half the total in two days.’
Mr Francois’s comments came amid growing scepticism over the suggestion it would cost £500,000 after it emerged that making Big Ben bong on other special occasions during its renovations had cost just £14,000.
Former Big Ben engineer slams ‘ludicrous’ £500,000 quote for bonging
A former Big Ben engineer has rubbished the £500,000 price tag quoted by the House of Commons authorities for the bell to bong for Brexit, calling it ‘unbelievable’.
Speaking to LBC on Tuesday, a caller called Mike said: ‘I was fortunate enough to work in Parliament for a couple of years and one of my jobs there was to project manage the extraction of the clock mechanism itself and to replace it with the electric motor that’s up there now,’ he said.
He called the cost that the Commons Speaker cited ‘unbelievable’ and added,: ‘I can only believe that they’re trying to claw some of the money back because it’s so over budget.’
Sir Paul Beresford, responding on behalf of the Commission to a parliamentary question from Mr Francois, said: ‘The costs associated with striking Big Ben on Remembrance Sunday and New Year’s Eve in 2019 were £14.2k including VAT on each occasion.’
However, Sir Paul said these events had been made to fit around the planned works ‘so as to minimise the impact on the project costs’.
‘If the project team are required to strike the bell with less notice, the costs would substantially increase due to the unexpected impact on the project schedule,’ he said.
Number 10 sparked anger among Tory MPs yesterday after appearing to wash its hands of the campaign following Mr Johnson’s decision on Tuesday to support the plan as he urged people to ‘bung a bob for a Big Ben bong’.
More than 9,000 people have now donated cash, including Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom who handed over £10. She wrote on Twitter: ‘I admit I’ve donated a tenner. #LoveBigBen. The Big Ben must bong for Brexit campaign.’
Former party leader Sir Iain condemned the House of Commons Commission and urged Mr Johnson to stop ‘sitting on the fence’.
‘On the eve of the single biggest change that Britain will undergo – arguably since the end of the Second World War – the House of Commons Commission, it appears, is determined to leave Big Ben mute.
‘This bell has rung out at all the critical moments in our nation’s modern history. But that it should be silenced now verges on the absurd.
‘Somehow they managed to find time to clang the bell to welcome in the New Year which is of far less significance. They must rethink this and allow that bell to ring.’
He added: ‘I urge Downing Street to make a clear statement that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet want Big Ben to signal the moment when our great country officially leaves the EU.’
Mr Francois had earlier said the PM would be ‘mad’ to back down after initially backing the campaign.
‘As the Prime Minister effectively initiated this campaign live on TV two days ago and as we are clearly going to hit the target, he would be mad to back away from it,’ he said.
Downing Street sources had previously said the idea of restoring the bell for January 31 was ‘dead’, and Mr Johnson’s spokesman appeared to confirm the news yesterday as he pointed the finger of blame at the Commons authorities.
Conservative MP Mark Francois said he would pay £1,000 towards the £500,000 cost of sounding the bell at 11pm on January 31
‘The House of Commons authorities have set out that there may be potential difficulties in accepting money from public donations,’ he said.
‘I think the PM’s focus is on the events which he and the Government are planning to mark January 31.’
A government source blamed the ‘intransigence’ of Commons officials, saying: ‘We went to the House authorities saying ‘how can we make this happen?’ and they came back with a whole series of unhelpful comments.
‘It’s very difficult for us to say to people they should contribute money when the whole thing might still be turned down by Parliament. If they do raise the half a million pounds then the Commons authorities are going to have a very big decision to make.’
Nigel Farage accused the government of being ’embarrassed’ by Brexit over its failure to back the bid for Big Ben to bong.
‘It seems to me they are embarrassed by Brexit and it makes me ask the question how much they really believe in it,’ he said.
Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who is chairman of the commission, set himself firmly against the idea saying the cost would be ‘£50,000 a bong’ – and argued only people who live in Westminster would get to hear the bell.
Commission officials warned of the legal and ethical problems of accepting public donations, calling it ‘unprecedented’.
The extraordinary cost is made up of £120,000 to reinstall and test the temporary ‘bonging’ mechanism. That also includes the cost of building a temporary floor in the belfry and then removing it again. They also said the Brexit bongs would delay renovations by up to four weeks at a cost of £100,000 per week.
Last night another Commons source said No10 could have pushed the issue by forcing a vote in Parliament.
‘The issue came up before the Commission and it was explained the cost and delay involved to the restoration of Big Ben and the Tower. If the Government really wanted it they could put forward some sort of motion and they could vote on it. That would overrule the commission.’
The appeal was launched on Wednesday morning on the GoFundMe website.
Writing on the site, one donor told the PM to ‘get it done’: ‘I find it unbelievable that this wasn’t arranged ahead of time and at reasonable expense just like it has been with every other significant event. Just get it done!’