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A delay is inevitable because the Government, due to report their decision on October 24, are still considering the exact parameters of the European Union measure.

The rules mean that there must be at least a three-month gap between the announcement of how the measures will be enforced and their actual implementation.

Trade and industry minister Lord Sainsbury of Turville has advised the British Art Market Federation that the debate is still going on over some of the more controversial aspects of the levy. These are thought to include the option to hand over collection rights for the levy to the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) as a compulsory measure rather than allowing dealers and vendors at auction to make separate arrangements for payments.

BAMF chairman Anthony Browne and president Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville met the minister last week to underline the case for the market. They are particularly concerned that the Government should opt for a qualification threshold of €3000. DACS are known to have been lobbying hard for the Government to apply the levy to all sales over €1000, which market pundits say would be disastrous for the UK.

BAMF have been arguing that most EU states debating the issue have made little progress, except for the Dutch, who have set the threshold at €3000. They have reminded the minister that the Government themselves have campaigned in Europe for the threshold to be raised to €5000.