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This is the fourth such meeting at which Britain has successfully defended its position, but doubts are growing as to how much longer it can continue to do so.

A recent change of heart by Danish representatives leaves the UK in a vulnerable position but the possibility of losing to a majority vote was averted when Helen Liddell, Minister for Competitiveness in Europe, put forward a compromise proposal which would provide for royalty payments on the resale of an artist’s work, but only during their lifetime.

The Netherlands also tabled a compromise which would confine the payment of the levy to works of art sold for over £150,000.

Anthony Browne, chairman of the British Art Market Federation, who has been liaising closely with the Government on the issue faced some tough decisions as to the best course of action to recommend to the UK’s representatives, but he told the Antiques Trade Gazette that he was not in favour of compromise.

“We cannot see a way of amending the current proposals, which would not be detrimental to the art market in the UK,” he explained.

He went on to say that BAMF would take a very different view of the situation if resale payments to artists and their families were part of an international agreement including countries like USA and Switzerland who stand to gain at EU countries’ expense if the current directive is accepted.

This form of compromise might be the weapon in Helen Liddell’s armoury as she continues to defend Britain’s position this week.

As political pressure builds over “withholding tax”, British beef and other issues, in the last days of the Finnish presidency, it is hoped that one or other of these compromises will be enough to send the art market issue back for further discussion.

The worst fear is that the interests of the European art market might fall victim to political manoeuvring among the states over other issues.