The EU will tell Britain to give back the ancient Parthenon marbles taken from Greece over 200 years ago as part of a post-Brexit trade deal

  • The EU and Britain will begin talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal next month.
  • The thorny issues are aplenty with one European minister saying negotiators will “rip each other apart.”
  • It has emerged that in those talks, the EU will ask Boris Johnson to give ancient marbles back to Greece.
  • Greece argues that the Parthenon marbles, taken from Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin over 200 years ago, were removed unlawfully and should be returned. 
  • The classic Greek structures are displayed in the British Museum in London.
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The European Union will demand that Britain gives ancient marbles back to Greece as part of a post-Brexit trade deal.

Greece has long argued that the Parthenon marbles — or Elgin marbles — were unlawfully removed from the Parthenon temple in Athens in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, a British diplomat at the time. 

The marbles are displayed in the British Museum in London.

The museum told The Times newspaper that the classical Greek structures were taken from the Parthenon temple lawfully and are “are accessible to the six million global visitors the museum receives each year.”

However, the same newspaper reports that the EU has included in its draft negotiating guidelines for a trade deal with the UK, a commitment to the “return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their country of origin.”

Brussels included this clause at Greece’s request.

An ambassador involved in trade talks with Boris Johnson’s UK government told the newspaper: “It is a measure of how Brexit has changed the game that the Greeks feel able to use the trade talks to pursue the Elgin Marbles.”

A Downing Street source told The Sun newspaper that the marbles were “going nowhere.”

“This shows a troubling lack of seriousness about the negotiations on the EU side,” they added.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

British and EU negotiators will begin talks on a possible free trade deal next month. Both sides aim to reach some sort of agreement by the end of the year, when the 11-month Brexit transition period comes to an end.

The question of which country ought to have Parthenon marbles is just the latest issue in what are set to be a tricky set of negotiations.

David Frost, Prime Minister Johnson’s chief Brexit negotiator, in a speech on Monday warned the EU that the UK would not sign up to EU rules as part of a free trade deal — and would rather walk away without an agreement.

Fishing is also set to be a thorny subject. Johnson’s UK government has pledged to take full control of Britain’s fishing waters as part of Brexit. However, the EU wants European fishing boats to retain access to British waters. 

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, on Sunday predicted that UK nd EU negotiators would “rip each other party” once talks get underway in March.

Several senior EU figures including Phil Hogan, the bloc’s head of trade, have expressed doubts that something can be agreed in so short a timetable. EU trade deals have taken at least a few years to be completed.

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