Brexit deal has been approved by the British cabinet, and as the European Union prepares to negotiate a whole new relationship with the UK post-Brexit, Greece might be able to make the United Kingdom an offer it can’t refuse.
“What we have now is the only opportunity in 200 years to force the return of the Parthenon Marbles,” says Alexis Mantheakis, co-founder of the activist group International Parthenon Sculptures Action Committee.
The world is focused on the divorce agreement that the UK will make with the EU, but that’s only the beginning. Once the UK Brexits the EU at the end of March, the negotiations start all over again, over trade, security and the rest of the future relationship.
The treaties that come out of those negotiations will almost certainly have to be ratified by all 27 remaining EU parliaments before they can take effect. If Greece’s parliament — or any other, for that matter — refuses, there’s no deal.
“There is no blackmail. This is political bargaining. I mean Britain’s doing it right now with Brexit, they’re doing it all over the place,” says Mantheakis. “When you want something, you put on pressure.”
Past EU trade deals have been held up by objections from national parliaments including Italy and Greece and Belgium’s Walloons, says Piet Eeckhout, professor of EU law and dean of the faculty of laws at University College London, although the ransom demands in the past have had to do with the text of the treaties themselves, not side issues. But they don’t have to.
“Nothing prevents any member state from saying, ‘this is a really significant issue, and we’re not willing to just march along unless this is settled as well,’” he says.
Supporters of the sculptures’ repatriation — who include British comedian Stephen Fry, British lawyer Amal Clooney and the late British journalist and author Christopher Hitchens — say the British peer who took the marbles did so without proper permission. The UK says no laws were broken, and maintain that the sculptures are rightly the property of the British Museum. Opinion polls show the British people generally support the marbles’ return to Greece.
But Marlen Godwin of the campaign group British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles says using Brexit to force the issue is “mixing apples and pears.” Brexit, she says, is complicated enough already.
Greece has the power to throw a wrench into that post-Brexit machine. What’s unclear is if it has the nerve to use it.
Simon Usherwood, deputy director of the independent think tank UK In a Changing Europe, thinks, probably not. He says no matter how much Greece wants the Parthenon Marbles back, it’s likely to care about its relationship with the EU more.
But if Greece indeed decides not to pull the trigger, Brexit might still offer repatriation campaigners one last hope: a change of leadership. Should the Conservative government lose power to the Labor opposition, Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has said when he’s prime minister, he’ll talk to Greece about sending the Parthenon Marbles back home. (full article here)
In an exclusive interview with a Greek newspaper last June, Jeremy Corbyn vowed to have the Parthenon Marbles returned to Greece if he is voted in as Prime Minister. “The Parthenon sculptures belong to Greece,” Corbyn said adidng if he is voted in as Prime Minister at the next elections that he will pursue the return of the marbles.