Tory MP Mark Francois finally admits defeat in Big Ben Brexit bong battle
Mark Francois has finally admitted defeat in his fight for Big Ben to bong at the moment the UK leaves the European Union.
The Tory MP said he and fellow campaigners had failed in a last-ditch attempt to persuade House of Commons authorities to let the iconic clock chime at 11pm on 31 January.
Officials had said that because the iconic tower is currently undergoing restoration work, it would cost £500,000 to put the work on hold in order for the bell to ring out.
Mr Francois said the £270,000 donated by members of the public towards that total will now be given to veterans' charity Help For Heroes.
In a joint-statement with Rebecca Ryan, founder of the #StandUp4Brexit campaign, he said: "The response from the British people has been fantastic and we are deeply grateful to everyone who donated.
"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.
"Nevertheless, we did make plain from the outset that if we were unsuccessful in raising the total and facilitating Big Ben to bong, then any remaining funds in the account would be donated to Help for Heroes.
"Every cloud has a silver lining and in this case it is that our military veterans that have been wounded in the service of their country will now receive a very substantial donation, thanks to your generosity."
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson announced a "bung a bob for a Big Ben bong" public fundraising campaign, but he was forced into a humiliating U-turn after Commons bosses told him they had no mechanism for accepting the cash.
Instead, a special light show will take place in Downing Street at the moment of Brexit, while the Prime Minister will also address the nation.