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VICTORIA Borwick MP has called on the antiques trade to engage with conservationists and politicians to help find a “pragmatic and realistic” solution to the ivory issue.

A second parliamentary debate on a proposed ban will go ahead on February 6 after an e-petition calling for the UK domestic ivory market to be shut down passed the necessary 100,000 threshold.

The Conservative MP for Kensington, and British Antiques Dealers’ Association president, was speaking at ATG’s Seminar on CITES at County Hall in London on January 19.

Some 260 delegates from the dealing and auctioneering community attended.

In her opening address Borwick said: “We need each and every one of you to write to your MPs and make the case for antique ivory.”

She urged the entire industry to come together in the face of demands for a full ivory trade ban from powerful lobbying groups and argued the case for an approach based on “facts” that allows for “wildlife protection…while valuing shared cultural heritage”.

The CITES seminar came ahead of a government consultation on the ivory trade.

The consultation will start this month and will seek comments from across the antiques trade, museums and trade associations as well as wildlife and conservation bodies. It is expected to conclude in March.

Government crackdown

The government has promised to crack down on the trade in modern (post-1947) ivory. But it faces increasing pressure to institute a blanket ban – a move with enormous consequences for the art and antiques trade.

Last week a group led by Lord Hague, the former foreign secretary, wrote a letter to prime minister Theresa May calling for a total ban.

The letter said China’s recent promise to close its ivory market by the end of the year, was a further reason for the UK government to act.

Junior environment minister Thérèse Coffey has said the consultation will consider the “options and impacts of taking further action” over and above a ban on ivory that is more than 70 years old. She said: “We will consider further whether additional measures are necessary to ensure a robust enforcement regime to accompany any new rules.”

“I believe there is the opportunity for further regulation and definitions…There are already examples where independent registers allow trading in a number of areas.”

However, in the context of a total ban, she concluded: “The trade would welcome a discourse with conservationists to find a viable solution which protects elephants but not the destruction of our shared cultural and artistic heritage.”