London's iconic Big Ben will reportedly ring at midnight on New Year's Eve to mark the start of a year for the first time since its new face was revealed from under scaffolding halfway through restoration work. According to international media reports, the restoration work of the 96-metre-tall Elizabeth Tower began back in 2017 and has been going since as the four clock dials are reglazed, ironwork repainted and intricately carved stonework cleaned and repaired. Since the restoration work began, Big Ben has been largely silenced.
The bell will be tested several times in the run-up to New Year's Eve. Earlier this year, part of scaffolding was removed which revealed the clock's once black numerals and hands have been repainted blue, which was believed to be its original colour. Britain's government had allotted $5.2 billion for the restoration work which is due to be completed in 2021. The bell was reportedly last rung this year in November to mark Remembrance Sunday which honours soldiers killed in the World Wars.
Big Ben is also likely to mark Brexit's exit from the European Union by ringing out chimes on January 31, the Brexit deadline. Nearly 50 members of the parliament, led by Mark Francois of the hardline anti-EU European Research Group have reportedly revived an attempt to get Big Ben to chime. While talking to an international media outlet, Francois called for the public to support the move so that the national icon of Big Ben will chime to mark the fact that the country is free again.
Francois also tried to get approval for it long to ring out on the first Brexit date of March 29 but the move was reportedly blocked by then-House of Commons speaker John Bercow. However, now that the committee is now headed by the house of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, it is possible that the bell might chime.
"It will be a significant moment and people will do different things, and if the House wishes to do that [Big Ben chimes], so be it. I certainly won't personally block anything," Speaker Hoyle said.