Tory MP Mark Francois and StandUp4Brexit launch crowdfunding bid to make Big Ben ‘bong for Brexit’ on 31st January: Brexit News for Thursday 16 January

Tory MP Mark Francois and StandUp4Brexit launch crowdfunding bid to make Big Ben ‘bong for Brexit’ on 31st January: Brexit News for Thursday 16 January
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Tory MP Mark Francois and StandUp4Brexit launch crowdfunding bid to make Big Ben ‘bong for Brexit’ on 31st January…

A national crowdfunding campaign to make Big Ben “bong for Brexit” has been launched. Tory Brexiteer Mark Francois and the StandUp4Brexit group are spearheading plans to help raise the cash to pay for the “iconic timepiece” to ring in the UK’s departure from the EU at 11pm on 31 January. Parliament officials have estimated the cost of enabling Big Ben, which is currently undergoing restoration work, to sound later this month could be as high as £500,000. This is because the clock mechanism on parliament’s Elizabeth Tower, which usually powers the hammer that strikes the Great Bell (commonly known as Big Ben), has been dismantled and removed for refurbishment. – Sky News

> Mark Francois MP on BrexitCentral today: Help us raise £500,000 to get Big Ben to bong for Brexit

…although Commons officials claim payment for the bonging would have to come from the government…  

A furious row has exploded between Commons officials and No10 after the PM called for Brits to crowdfund the £500,000 needed for the symbolic chime. Boris backed Leavers’ calls to reconnect the famous clock’s bells to mark the historic moment, at 11pm on January 31, amid major renovations to it. But taxpayers money has been ruled out to meet the bid’s spiralling bill. In a bitter behind the scenes dispute that has raged for two days, senior officials insisted there is “no legal basis” for them to accept any public donations. Payment for any works to Parliament can only come from government coffers where they can be fully scrutinised, they insisted. The defiance enraged No10. A senior Government source dubbed the senior Parliament officials’ attitudes as “absolutely mind-boggling”. Commons authorities last night confirmed to The Sun that crowdfunding Big Ben to bong is “an unprecedented approach” that flies in the face of its current rules. – The Sun

…as Brexiteers are given the green light to hold a huge party in Parliament Square to mark Brexit Day

Brexiteers have been given the green light to hold a huge party in Parliament Square to mark leaving the EU on January 31, it’s been confirmed today. Organisers expect 15,000 to flood the streets in Westminster to celebrate Britain finally exiting the European Union in just over two weeks’ time. Brexit Party boss Nigel Farage said today: “Great news! It is a big moment in the history of this nation to celebrate.” Sources said they were now looking at trying to set off fireworks to mark the momentous event – but need the Port of London Authority to give permission first to ensure safety of any boats on the Thames. The event is set to include music and high-profile speakers too. Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice told The Sun: “We are delighted. It’s such a huge moment in our nation’s history. We’ll have a great time.” – The Sun

Farmers to be paid to protect the environment as ministers unveil ‘landmark’ post-Brexit agriculture plan

The “landmark” Agriculture Bill will replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which hands out subsidies to farms based largely on their size, with a new regime once Britain leaves the EU. The legislation will aim to incentivise farmers with public money for “public good”, including work to secure better air and water quality, higher standards of welfare for animals and measures to curb flooding. It will replace the system of EU Direct Payments, in a move that the Department for the Environment claimed would boost the farming industry “after years of inefficient and overly bureaucratic policy dictated to farmers by the EU”. – PoliticsHome

Irish premier Leo Varadkar calls for ‘level playing field’ over Brexit negotiations…

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that there has to be a level playing field in the Brexit negotiations to ensure the single market and customs union are “not diluted”. The Taoiseach said there must be a common minimum standard so the United Kingdom does not attempt to “undercut” the EU over its labour and environmental standards. Mr Varadkar said the Brexit negotiations has reached the halfway point, adding that the next step is to negotiate a free trade agreement between the UK and the EU. – Belfast Telegraph

…as he declares Ireland ‘on Team EU’ as far as Brexit is concerned

The EU is “in a very good spirit to go as fast as possible, to work as hard as possible, day and night, to move forward quickly” on Brexit, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday. And she can rely on Ireland’s support, with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar declaring that his country is “on Team EU.” The two were speaking at a press conference in Dublin. Von der Leyen said “it would not have been possible to reach this [Brexit] agreement without the very hard work, patience and the unity of everybody here in Ireland.” But she warned the U.K. that “the closer they want to be to the single market, of course they have to align to the rules of the single market. The less they want to abide by the rules of the single market, the more distant they will be, the more difficult it will be to have access.” – Politico 

Angela Merkel warns the EU that ‘Brexit is a wake-up call’

It’s a grim winter’s day in Berlin, and the political climate matches the weather. Everywhere Angela Merkel looks there are storm clouds, as the values she has upheld all her career come under sustained attack. At the start of a new decade, Europe’s premier stateswoman suddenly seems to be on the wrong side of history. Shortly, the UK will leave the EU. A volatile US president is snubbing allies and going it alone in the Middle East. Vladimir Putin is changing the Russian constitution and meddling in Libya and sub-Saharan Africa. Trade tensions continue, threatening the open borders and globalised value chains that are the cornerstones of Germany’s prosperity. – FT (£)

Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy says the party let the Brexit debate become a false culture war

Lisa Nandy has castigated Labour under Jeremy Corbyn for falling into the “trap” of allowing Brexit to be framed as a binary culture war, saying the party should have outlined positive, internationalist arguments, including a defence of free movement. Delivering a speech setting out her approach to international relations if she won the contest to succeed Corbyn, Nandy said Labour also missed chances to try to reunite the country around a softer Brexit following the 2016 referendum. On other global issues, the Wigan MP condemned Corbyn and his team for limiting their criticism of Russia following the novichok poisoning attack in Salisbury and other issues. – Guardian

> WATCH: Lisa Nandy’s address to the RSA

£30m no-deal Brexit scheme dismantled on roads to Dover

The £30m no-deal Brexit traffic management system operating on the main roads to Dover is being fully dismantled before the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 January. The steel barriers in place to allow for a contraflow system on the M20 to mitigate against lorry gridlock on the way to the port are being removed after 11 months. The operation to remove the barriers, close gaps in the central reservation system for emergency access, and repaint the roads will take two weeks of overnight work. The roads would be back to normal on 1 February, the day after Brexit, Highways England said. – Guardian

Britain’s EU citizens ‘at risk of discrimination’ after Brexit, claim MEPs

The European parliament has said EU citizens living in the UK after it leaves the bloc risk discrimination in jobs and housing, because the government will not issue physical documents under the settled-status scheme. In a resolution backed by a resounding majority of MEPs in Strasbourg, the parliament said the British government’s “conflicting announcements” about special status had caused “unhelpful uncertainty and anxiety” for EU nationals who had made the UK their home. EU fears have mounted since the Home Office minister Brandon Lewis told a German newspaper last October that EU nationals risk being deported if they fail to apply for special status, the scheme to secure their rights as UK residents, by the end of 2020. – Guardian

Overseas Territories should send MPs to Westminster post-Brexit, says former minister

In an interview with The House magazine, John Penrose said the likes of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands should also send MPs to represent them at Westminster. The MP for Weston-super-Mare, who served under both David Cameron and Theresa May, said it would show that the UK was “committed to being a global nation post-Brexit”. Britain has 14 Overseas Territories which are fully autonomous while remaining under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the UK. Mr Penrose said: “What I am suggesting is they should be at least offered the chance to have an equivalent kind of devolution settlement that has already been agreed and negotiated with Scotland, with Wales and Northern Ireland.”. – PoliticsHome

Leo McKinstry: Big Ben must chime for Brexit — the miserabilists and pessimists cannot get their way

The hour of destiny is approaching fast. The day of liberation is almost here. In little more than two weeks, at 11pm on January 31, Brexit will finally be enacted. As Britain throws off the shackles of rule by the European Union, a new era of national freedom beckons. The arrival of British independence, after nearly half a century of Brussels domination, is a moment for profound celebration. And there could be no more appropriate way to mark this historic milestone than a series of chimes from the mighty bell that is Big Ben. For the landmark is a shining symbol of both British nationhood and our parliamentary democracy. Since its completion in 1859, the clock tower synonymous with its famous bell has become a cultural icon, renowned across the world. – Leo McKinstry for The Sun

Sunder Katwala: The so-called ‘Festival of Brexit’ is nothing of the sort

“There is obviously a big narrative going on around healing and coming together”, Martin Green noted in his first public interviews as the director of Festival 2022, conceived of as a new ‘Festival of Britain’ for this generation. Green hopes that “the great creativity and  ingenuity of the UK can help re-find that common ground” and so bring some “joy and happiness” to the nation. Joy and happiness were not the universal spirit of the responses to his remark, with plenty of snark on Twitter about the “festival of Brexit” showing that not everybody is in a mood to immediately find that common ground. The framing of the event as the ‘Festival of Brexit’ is one of the big hurdles that Green faces. That shorthand nickname, coined by media outlets, has stuck and is being eagerly seized upon by critics. – Sunder Katwala for CapX

James Cook: How Britain’s technology industry shrugged off Brexit fears – and kept on growing

Just days after the result of the EU referendum was announced, a German political party hired a van for an unusual publicity stunt. It drove around some of London’s most fashionable neighbourhoods for 12 hours with a bold message for British technology start-ups: “Keep calm and move to Berlin”. It was the opening salvo of an extended campaign by Germany and France to poach nervous start-ups which were worried that Brexit would cripple the technology industry just as it had begun to flourish. One poll conducted before the 2016 referendum found that 87pc of people who work in technology planned to vote to Remain. And on the day the result of the vote was declared, one serial investor wrote in a text message “Whole thing is s***. F*** me.” – James Cook for the Telegraph (£)

Brexit in Brief

  • The free trade deal Britain must sign up to after Brexit – Alexander Downer for The Spectator
  • Last choucroute in Strasbourg: British MEPs say goodbye – Politico