Row over ‘unlawfully removed cultural objects’ could feature in Brexit talks

Sections of the Parthenon Marbles in London's British Museum. Photograph: Matthew Fearn/PA.

Sections of the Parthenon Marbles in London's British Museum. Photograph: Matthew Fearn/PA. - Credit: PA

The EU could demand the return of the Parthenon marbles to Greece as part of upcoming Brexit talks.

According to a document shared on social media, the EU's latest negotiating position called for the UK and Brussels to "address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin".

The Guardian reported that the proposition had been argued for by Italy, Spain, Cyprus and Greece, but was about a desire to stop the fraudulent movement of antiquities around Europe rather than a direct reference to the marbles.

The Parthenon marbles, which date back to the fifth century BC, were once in the ancient Greek Parthenon temple and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens but around half were taken to Britain in the early nineteenth century by staff working for the Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce.

The acquisition of the sculptures has been controversial for more than 200 years and the Acropolis Museum in Athens, which has the remaining sculptures that were left in Greece, has left space empty for their return as part of its current display.

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But the government claims returning the Parthenon marbles to Greece will not be discussed during the upcoming trade negotiations with the European Union.

But a government spokeswoman ruled out the prospect of discussing re-homing the sculptures during next month's trade talks.

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A spokeswoman said: "The EU are still finalising their mandate - this is currently in draft.

"The UK's position on the Parthenon sculptures remains unchanged - they are legal responsibility of the British Museum. That is not up for discussion as part of our trade negotiations."

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