TALKS on an EU trade deal were plunged into fresh crisis last night after Italy demanded that Britain must hand back Hadrian’s Wall before an agreement can be reached.
It followed insistence by Greece that the return of the Elgin Marbles from London to Athens should be a condition of any post-Brexit pact.
Italy is now claiming ownership of the wall, the 73-mile stone barrier between the Solway Firth and River Tyne built on the orders of the Roman Emperor Hadrian between AD 122 and AD 128.
‘The wall is crucial to our cultural and historical identity as successor state to the Roman Empire,’ said an Italian official. ‘It is a scandal that it is being retained by Britain. We want it dismantled and shipped to Rome. Hail Caesar!’
Soon after, other EU countries piled in with demands for Britain to return their ‘treasures’.
Spain wants the repatriation of millions of pounds worth of gold, silver and jewels taken from its ships by English adventurer and privateer Sir Francis Drake off South America in 1578. A spokesman said: ‘If he saw a ducat, Drake took it – and we want it back.’
This was followed by a demand from France for the return of two imperial eagle battle standards captured by the British at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the Duke of Wellington’s allied forces.
‘Napoleon’s dream of a united Europe was thwarted by the dastardly British,’ said a French official. ‘By leaving the EU, they are again trying to split Europe asunder. Vive l’Empereur!’
Holland wants Kensington Palace, once the home of Dutch-born King William of Orange, who reigned over Britain with Queen Mary from 1689, to be sent to the Netherlands.
Germany is demanding that the North Sea revert to its previous name of the German Ocean, while Ireland is calling for the return of ‘national treasure’ Graham Norton.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘These are just spurious demands and diversionary tactics by EU countries to try to force us into concessions on a trade deal.
‘If the Italians want Hadrian’s Wall, we’ll swap it for the Colosseum. As for Drake, he was authorised by Queen Elizabeth to wage war on Spain. Lord Elgin paid for the marbles, and we beat the Froggies fair and square at Waterloo.
‘And if Kensington Palace is a legitimate demand, I’m a Dutchman. The Germans can call the North Sea what they like as long as they stay on their side of it. But the Irish can have Graham Norton back.’