In Depth

Brexit: UK cities barred from European Capital of Culture

Leeds and Dundee among five towns told to withdraw their bid

Five UK cities who were in the running to be named 2023’s European Capital of Culture have been disqualified due to Brexit.

The European Commission said that proposals from Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Dundee, Leeds and a three-way bid from Belfast, Londonderry and Strabane in Northern Ireland were no longer eligible, just a week before the winning city is due to be announced.

Every year, two member states get a chance to nominate a city as a European Capital of Culture, hosting a programme of cultural and artistic events to promote both national heritage and a shared European identity.

Two UK cities have previously been as host cities - Glasgow in 1990 and Liverpool in 2008.

However, in a letter to the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport obtained by Politico, the Commission said that the UK’s continued participation “will not be possible”.

Capitals of Culture are generally from EU member states, although the nomination rules state that every three years the title may be awarded to a country in the process of applying for membership or a country in the European Economic Area.

The current capitals are Pafos, Cyprus, and the Danish city of Aarhus. Next year, the mantle will pass to the Maltese capital, Valletta, and Leeuwarden in the Netherlands.

A European Commission spokeswoman told the BBC that the UK’s disqualification was “one of the many concrete consequences of its decision to leave the European Union”.

The news was met with shock, disappointment and anger by the five UK nominees, who submitted their bids in October amid much fanfare.

The DCMS said it was “deeply disappointed” with the decision and that it was currently engaged in “urgent discussions” with European Commission officials to try and resolve the situation.

"The Prime Minister has been clear that while we are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe and this has been welcomed by EU leaders,” a No 10 spokeswoman said.

"We want to continue working with our friends in Europe to promote the long-term economic development of our continent, which may include participating in cultural programmes.”

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