Mark Francois urged John Bercow to allow Big Ben to chime to “celebrate freedom”, if the UK leaves the EU at 11pm on March 29. The Brexiteer MP also asked how long an extension period would last, and the purpose of an extension. Speaking in the Commons, Mr Francois said: “Can I ask the Minister if the Council is only three days away, one, how long an extension will we ask for, or hasn’t Olly Robbins told the Cabinet yet? Two, what is the purpose of the extension? And three, will the SI be debated on the floor of the House rather than upstairs in Committee, and will the Government allocate a whole day for the debate?
“And Mr Speaker as you chair the House of Commons commission and today is D-11, if as a result of these historic events we do leave the European Union at 11pm on March 29, will you use your influence over the House of Commons authorities to make sure that Big Ben chimes at 11pm so we can celebrate our freedom?”
Mr Bercow replied: “I will take the last part of the right honourable gentleman’s question as rhetorical, I do not want to rehearse that particular matter suffice it to say.
“As the right honourable gentleman might know but might not, that idea was canvassed in the House of Commons commission, but it did not enjoy support.
“Beyond, if memory serves me, one person, who was perfectly entitled to that view and I am not knocking the person who expressed that view, but it was not more widely shared.
Brexit news: Mark Francois demanded Big Ben chime if the UK leaves the EU on March 29
How long an extension will we ask for, or hasn’t Olly Robbins told the Cabinet yet?
“I absolutely admit that if the right honourable gentleman was himself a member of the Commission, the support for it obviously would have doubled.”
Brexit Under-Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng also responded: “My right honourable friend essentially asks two questions. He asked the House, he asked me, how long the extension would be.
“Now with respect to the length of the extension that depends on if the meaningful vote goes through or not. If we have a deal, if the deal goes through, we will ask for a short extension.
“Now if for whatever reason that deal does not happen or is frustrated or is voted down, we will probably ask for a long extension of the period. That would be a matter for the EU and our Government to decide.
“The second question he asked was about the SI, now he being a former whip would know such matters are for the formal channel and for business managers in this House I am sure we will have further clarification in the course of the week.”
Mr Bercow has made it clear that the government cannot legitimately put the same deal back to the House.
The Commons Speaker said unless Theresa May’s deal is revised, he will prevent the third meaningful vote on it.
He said: “It has been strongly rumoured that third and even possibly fourth meaningful vote motions will be attempted. Hence this statement is designed to signal what would be orderly and what would not.
“If the Government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the same as that disposed of by the House on March 12 this would be entirely in order.
“What the Government cannot do is resubmit the same proposition or substantially the same proposition of that of last week that was rejected by 149 votes.
“This should not be thought of as my last word on the matter. It is the test the Government must meet for a vote to be legitimately by held.”
A spokesman for Mrs May said: “The Speaker did not forewarn us of the content of his statement or the fact that he was making one.”
Mrs May and her colleagues are making strenuous efforts to persuade the DUP to support her, with a Government official confirming “all eyes” are now on the Northern Irish party.
She is widely expected to table a third vote in a desperate bid to get the blessing of Parliament, and has warned if MPs fail to give her proposals the thumbs up, a long delay to Brexit is likely, with the possibility of it not even happening at all.
The Prime Minister is likely to need to support of the DUP’s 10 MPs to get her deal over the line, and believes if she can secure their backing, it is likely to persuade rebel Tories to fall in line as well, with a Government official saying “all eyes are on the DUP talks”.
It comes as Mrs May is rumoured to be on the verge of sacking chief negotiator Olly Robbins in a bid to get backing from Tory MPs for her deal.