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The Internal Market Council of the European Commission is due to meet to take a final decision on the measure as the Antiques Trade Gazette comes off the presses on Monday morning (June 21) and the British Art Market Federation, who have been leading the campaign against the measure, believe that changing opinion in Germany and France could at least lead to a further deferral.

Speaking to the Antiques Trade Gazette last week, BAMF secretary Neil Smith revealed that the Prime Minister himself had raised the issue with his European colleagues on several occasions recently, and said that the last month had seen a “tremendous amount of activity” from the Government.

The coalition Austrian Government could well support the UK’s case, he argued – depending on which minister’s representative turns up at the Internal Market Council meeting; the justice minister, who has briefed the council until recently has been very pro droit de suite, the economics minister who has taken over is much more sympathetic to the UK.

If they join the vote against the imposition of droit de suite here, it would give the UK 24 of the 26 votes needed to block it. With indications that the German trade is also developing sympathies with the UK’s plight, and the French Government awaiting the report it commissioned from the Sorbonne on the state of its own art market, this could be enough to persuade the Internal Market Council, under the German presidency, to refer the matter for further discussion.

But the shift in opinion cannot be taken for granted, warns Mr Smith. Two weeks ago he was informed that even the German auctioneers – thought to be amongst the most entrenched in their support of the introduction of droit de suite in the UK – had swung behind the British campaign. Last week he was told they had returned to their former position.

Artists in Austria, who believe that UK droit de suite would not benefit them and would only damage the market, were due to submit a petition to their Government at the beginning of last week.