The UK has issued a defiant warning to the EU by vowing to ensure the Elgin Marbles in London will “not be up for negotiation” in any post-Brexit trade talks
A bitter row once again erupted over the iconic works, with Brussels demanding the British Museum-based artefacts are returned to Greece. But a Government minister argued there would be zero chance of the Parthenon marbles being moved. The possession of the works has been a disputed topic for centuries, with the argument starting more than 200 years ago.
It was originally homed at the Acropolis Museum in Athens, where the remaining sculptures linked to the marbles remain.
In Greece, there is such a belief they should be returned the museum has left space within the exhibit if it were ever moved back.
The fifth-century-BC-old marbles were originally part of the Greek Parthenon temple and other buildings at the Acropolis of Athens.
However, in the early 19th century, staff working for the Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce took the hallowed objects, bringing them to Britain.
A leaked draft of Brussels’ mandate has allegedly included a desire for it to be moved back to Greece, with the demand that the UK “return unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin”.
However, Culture Minister Caroline Dineage insisted the Government would not entertain any such request.
She said: “The UK’s position on that remains unchanged.
“The Parthenon sculptures are the legal responsibility of the British Museum.
”This is not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations.”
In a Commons debate, the Scottish National Party urged the Government to return them, claiming that a move would “mark a sea change in how Britain is viewed in the world”.
Margaret Ferrier, SNP MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West, added: “Handled correctly it could indicate that Britain is willing to ditch the colonial mindset for good.
“Brexit also reveals the delusions of grandeur of this Tory Government, as it will expose the power imbalance we face in the negotiations with the EU27.
“The EU’s own negotiating mandates contained an additional clause calling on both parties in the negotiation to address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their country of origin.
“It is utterly apparent to me that Brexit will fuel demands for Britain to return the Elgin Marbles.
“The calls for the Elgin Marbles’ return to Greece may prove irresistible as negotiations drag on throughout this year.
“Whether by intention or by accident, the UK Government may well lose its marbles much sooner than any of us have anticipated.”