As a keen student of language, I’m always happy to learn a new word or, barring that, a new meaning of an old word.
Hence I’m grateful to the EU in general, and Greece in particular, for expanding my vocabulary. It turns out ‘save’ is a synonym for ‘steal’.
When used that way, the verb refers to the Parthenon sculptures, the Elgin Marbles, which the eponymous Lord Elgin saved from extinction at a vast personal cost.
When in 1799 he was appointed His Majesty’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire (to which Greece then belonged), the Earl of Elgin noticed that many of the sculptures supposed to be at the Parthenon and elsewhere in the Acropolis were no longer there.
He then discovered that the Turks, whose appreciation of such treasures was less heightened than Lord Elgin’s, were burning the marble sculptures to obtain lime for construction purposes.
A civilised man, Lord Elgin appealed to the British government for help in preserving the masterpieces. Finding no sympathetic ear there, he decided to finance the effort himself.
It cost him a whopping £70,000 (some £70 million in today’s money), but he did manage to ship the surviving sculptures to Britain between 1801 and 1812.
He then sold them, for a fraction of his outlay, to the British Museum, where they have remained every since. There, the masterpieces saved from the vandals are admired by six million visitors every year.
Lately the Greeks have been demanding the sculptures back, claiming Lord Elgin stole them. ‘Stole’ is thus a synonym of ‘saved at a ruinous cost to himself’.
Their cause has so far been championed only by assorted leftist ignoramuses, such as George Clooney and his activist wife. George’s appreciation of fine culture was highlighted when he insisted that the sculptures belonged in the Pantheon – presumably to be buried next to Voltaire, Rousseau and Zola.
All that is par for the course. Those as restless of conscience as they are feeble of mind will always find a way of signalling their virtue. However, now the EU itself has got into the act.
At Greece’s insistence, that awful contrivance has made the return of the Elgin Marbles one of the bargaining chips in the negotiations about the post-Brexit trade deal. “Return the Marbles or no deal,” is the message.
“This is just not happening,” responded a No 10 spokesman, “and it shows a troubling lack of seriousness about the negotiations on the part of the EU.”
The spokesman is wrong: the EU is dead serious. That would become clear if we put the word ‘negotiations’ in quotation marks.
A negotiation is a process by which two parties arrive at an equitable solution acceptable to both. This is only possible when they both negotiate in good faith, a condition that’s manifestly not met in this case.
The EU doesn’t want an equitable trade deal. It wants to make Britain’s life so difficult that other disgruntled EU members will think twice before following suit.
Hence the marbles game, used as yet another wrench tossed into the Brexit works. If that doesn’t work, the federasts will think up something else.
Anything at all will do. They may demand free access to Carrie Symonds’s bedroom. Putting Her Majesty on public display in a cage. A permanent presence of the EU flag on Big Ben. Prince William switching his allegiance from Aston Villa to PSG. It really makes no difference.
That they’ll hurt their own economies by sabotaging the deal won’t matter to them as long as they’ll also hurt ours. The EU, as I never tire of saying, is a political project, not an economic one. If the economy has to be sacrificed for political gain, then so be it.
Nor does it matter to them how idiotic they sound in the process. Thus, responding to Mr Johnson’s reasonable suggestion of a Canada-type arrangement, Michel Barnier, chief EU negotiator, cited Britain’s “close geographical proximity” to the EU as a disqualifying characteristic.
Since when does geographical proximity preclude a trade deal? If anything, it should facilitate it. After all, our goods only have to cross the Channel on the way to the EU, not the Atlantic, as Canadian goods must.
Since I can’t believe Mr Barnier is mentally retarded, he must believe we all are. Otherwise he’d say honestly that: “Britain isn’t like Canada not because it’s closer to the EU geographically, but because it was an EU member and then had the audacity to leave.”
Then the whole world would see that what’s going on isn’t a bona fide trade negotiation, but an underhanded attempt to prop up a misbegotten ideological construct.
Yet only a naïve romantic would expect honesty from EU officials. That organisation is a pack of cards balanced on a pack of lies. And, as the Russians say, like priest, like parish.
However, we must be reasonable and accommodating. So I suggest we do return the Elgin Marbles to Greece – provided France and Belgium return to the original owners the works of art Napoleon looted from all over Europe. Fair’s fair, eh, Mr Barnier?