The EU could demand the return of the Elgin marbles as part of a future Brexit trade deal according to the latest draft of the bloc’s negotiating mandate.
The 27-strong bloc has added the need to “address issues relating to the return or restitution of unlawfully removed cultural objects to their countries of origin,”
The document, due to be concluded on Wednesday, sets the parameters for the EU’s position going into the negotiations starting next month.
The collection of marble sculptures from Parthenon, commonly known as the Elgin Marbles, has been a vexed issue ever since they were brought to the UK between 1802-1812.
Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin, a British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, removed the stones from Acropolis at personal expense with permission from the Turkish Sultan, and years later after much controversy sold them to the British Museum.
Despite repeated requests from Greece the UK has consistently refused to return the artefacts.
The addition to the negotiating mandate suggests that the remaining EU 27 countries could try and add their own specific grievances.
Spain is talking up its claims on Gibraltar while France is demanding conditions on fishing rights.
A Greek government spokesman told Euronews: “Greek government’s request for return of Elgin marbles is eternal, not tied to a Brexit trade deal”.
A senior UK Government source dismissed the idea out of hand saying: “This is just not happening and it shows a troubling lack of seriousness about the negotiations on the EU side.”
Meanwhile the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told the UK it could not have a Canada-style trade agreement just a day after his UK equivalent made that demand.
Michel Barnier said the EU was ready to offer an “ambitious partnership” with the UK post-Brexit, but its “particular proximity” meant it would be different.
On Monday night David Frost, made a speech in Brussels calling for a “Canada-Free Trade Agreement-type relationship” echoing the demands set out by Boris Johnson in his first speech on Brexit since becoming PM.
The two sides are due to start negotiations next month.