When construction workers began to erect scaffolding around the Palace of Westminster in 2017, it appeared to be a perfect metaphor for Britain’s polarizing Brexit debate, which had plunged the country’s politics into a state of disrepair and took center stage inside that building.

Neither the debate nor the construction are over yet. But Britain is set to leave the European Union at the end of the month, and staunch pro-Brexit members of Parliament are in the mood to celebrate. They have requested that Big Ben – the iconic chiming clock housed in Westminster’s Elizabeth Tower – chime at the exact moment that Britain officially exits the E.U. on Jan. 31.

That’s not as easy as it sounds.

“Because, as everybody knows, Big Ben is being refurbished. They seem to have taken the clapper away, so we need to restore the clapper in order to bong Big Ben on Brexit night. That is expensive,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC on Tuesday.

He said that 500,000 pounds ($650,000 U.S.) would be required and that “we’re looking at whether the public can fund it.”

Before Johnson’s remarks, multiple British media outlets had reported that it was unlikely that Big Ben would chime on Brexit day because of financial constraints and the short time frame for preparations.


But Johnson sought to reassure viewers that he wouldn’t give up so easily. “[W]e’re working up a plan so that people can bung a bob for a Big Ben bong, because there are some people who want to,” he told the BBC.

Critics, who have long warned that Brexit would make Britain poorer rather than better off, may find Johnson’s proposed solution upsetting.

U.K. authorities attributed the cost to the need for installing a temporary floor in the clock tower and suspending restoration work for several weeks, according to the BBC.

Since the bell fell mostly silent in 2017, similar temporary mechanisms have been used on New Year’s Eve and other occasions to make it chime.

A government spokesman did not provide details about the proposed solution, saying, “The prime minister’s words speak for himself.”

Johnson’s enthusiasm for the Brexit day bell-ringing is far from ubiquitous in a country still deeply divided over the prospect of leaving the E.U.

David Lammy, a member of Parliament from the opposition Labour Party, tweeted that he was “not fussed about whether Big Ben bongs on Brexit day.”

“[What] I care about is the £130bn ($169.3 billion U.S.) and counting that leaving the EU has already cost,” he wrote.

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