Don't let Brexit end culture city hopes, MPs tell Juncker

Dundee 2023Image copyright
Alan Richardson

A group of MPs have written to the head of the EU Commission to complain about Brexit scuppering the UK’s entries for European Capital of Culture.

The cross-party group each represents areas that have submitted bids for the 2023 title.

They said it was “inexplicable” the EU waited for bids to be submitted before revealing they were all ineligible.

The EU says it is a “concrete consequence” of Brexit that the UK can’t host the 2023 culture capital.

Nottingham, Leeds , Milton Keynes, Dundee and a joint Belfast-Londonderry-Strabane bid were all in the running for the accolade.

The title of European Capital of Culture rotates around eligible countries.

Plans for the UK to host a Capital of Culture in 2023 were announced in 2014 – before the EU referendum.

Liverpool was the last British city to be a European Capital of Culture, in 2008, following Glasgow in 1990.

The MPs’ letter to EU commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, coordinated by Labour’s Rachel Reeves, said the exclusion of the UK from the 2023 contest was “saddening”.

They told him: “We find it inexplicable that the European Union waited until after the bids from the United Kingdom had been submitted before ruling them all ineligible, when it has been aware of the United Kingdom’s decision since June 2016.

“Politics should not interfere with what is in many ways an event intended to bridge cultural and political divides.”

‘Polite reminder’

Cities from non-EU countries have held the title before – but the EU says they must either be a candidate for membership or in the European Free Trade Association or European Economic Area (EEA).

The MPs added: “We politely remind you that the United Kingdom is still a member of the European Union and that no decision has yet been made as to what a future relationship will look like.”

They also wrote to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley saying the “very late” announcement by the EU was not consistent with the “continuing close relationship” the UK is seeking after Brexit, and that the cities were being denied the chance to boost their economies.

But the European Commission referred to the letter formally triggering Brexit that Theresa May sent to the EU in March.

“The UK’s letter declaring Article 50 in turn makes clear that UK will be a member of neither the EU nor the EEA from March 30, 2019,” it said.

“This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the UK cannot host a Capital of Culture in 2023.”

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