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19 Feb, 2020 15:21

Brexit leverage or historic justice? Twitter row erupts after EU ‘demands’ UK return stolen Elgin Marbles to Greece

Brexit leverage or historic justice? Twitter row erupts after EU ‘demands’ UK return stolen Elgin Marbles to Greece

Britain’s refusal to return the Parthenon/Elgin Marbles to Greece, which says they were stolen from Athens in the early 19th century, has triggered debate on Twitter about the rights and wrongs of the provocative request.

The long-running dispute has recently seen Greece step up efforts to reclaim the 2,500-year-old sculptures that had adorned the famed fifth century BC Parthenon temple. The precious pieces were taken by British diplomat Lord Elgin when Athens was under Ottoman Turkish rule.

The British Museum in London – where the ancient treasures are currently held – have rejected Athens’ request. They deny Greece’s claim that they were stolen and say the marbles were taken under a legal contract with the Ottoman empire.

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But it has recently emerged the EU’s draft negotiating mandate in relation to post-Brexit trade talks with the UK includes a demand for the return of “unlawfully removed cultural objects.” The claim was immediately linked to the Elgin Marbles, prompting accusations online that Brussels is using the contentious issue for leverage in negotiations.

Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib hit out at the EU for “grasping onto anything with which it might bolster its negotiating position,” adding that “enough is enough” and suggesting the UK should not play their games and instead “leave without a deal.”

Darren Grimes – who helped found the BrexitCentral website and the pro-Brexit youth group BeLeave – has called the EU’s latest demands “ridiculous.” He claimed on Twitter that Brussels was merely using the issue of the Parthenon Marbles as a means to “attack Britain.”

Others took issue with the anglicized name being given to the Greek artefacts. One person joked that “given the nickname they’ve been given I don’t think anyone is in a position to dispute that Lord Elgin did indeed steal the Elgin Marbles.”

British comedy writer and author James Felton suggested that Britons shouldn’t “lose our s**t” over the demands, considering the amount of stolen historic items in the British Museum. Humorous pictures were also posted mocking the outrage at the request made by Greece.

Downing Street has responded by saying the relics were “not up for discussion” as part of any UK-EU trade talks. The rhetoric between London and Brussels has soured in recent days. EU Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt warned on Tuesday that it would be a “hell of a job” to secure a successful outcome in negotiations with the UK, as he criticized their approach to future relationship discussions.

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