Outrage after British cities blocked from European 'capital of culture' contest

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Dundee, Leeds, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Belfast/Derry have submitted bids to host the event in 2023.

Brussels sent a letter to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which stated "on grounds of sound and responsible management of human and financial resources, the Commission considers that the selection process should immediately be discontinued".

In a letter obtained by POLITICO, the Commission said the British application for a European Capital of Culture in 2023 should be "discontinued" because of the Brexit vote.

Chris Law MP for Dundee West said he had "called for clarity on the impact the Tory Brexit would have on the bid over a year ago and it's not good enough that we've waited a year for this bad news".

A DCMS spokeswoman said it remained committed to help the five cities realise their cultural ambitions and is in urgent talks with the European Commission.

The decision has sparked widespread anger as two non-EU cities - Istanbul and Reykjavik - have been named European Capital of Culture in previous years.

The city that wins the award receives £1.3 million, however it is believed more money can be generated by the city purely on the basis of having received the accolade.

"The timing is disrespectful not only to the citizens of Dundee, but to people from all five bidding cities who have devoted so much time, effort and energy so far in this competition".

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A spokesman for Dundee City Council said the local authority was "urgently" seeking clarification on the matter.

A DCMS spokeswoman said that while the United Kingdom would be leaving the European Union, it was not leaving "Europe".

Not only does the decision smack of petty vindictiveness - non-EU cities have been afforded Capital of Culture status in the past - but it fails to recognise the power of the arts to bring countries and communities together.

"We are still members of the European Union and are in the process of negotiating a new relationship".

The spokeswoman continued: "According to the rules adopted by the European Parliament and the Council (Decision 445/2014), this action is not open to third countries except candidate countries and European Free Trade Association/European Economic Area countries".

"Some cities have already spent up to £500,000 on their bid submissions".

Paul Russ, chairman of the Nottingham 2023 bid, said: "The bid team will be liaising with the DCMS over the coming days and we hope the situation can be resolved positively so that we and the other bidding cities can present next week as planned".

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