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EU bars UK from hosting Capital of Culture in 2023 in 'bombshell' announcement

British cities in the running to be named Capitals of Culture in 2023 have been told they are now disqualified from taking part as a result of Brexit in a "bombshell" announcement from Brussels.

The news has been met with outrage and anger from representatives of cities on the shortlist - which have ploughed a million pounds pounds into their bids.

The UK had already been selected as a host nation for 2023 before the Brexit vote.

Five cities had been shortlisted for the prestigious title, which can bring in millions in extra tourism revenue. They only to submit their bids last month, many months after the vote to leave the EU.

But the European Commission has now written to the British Government to say the UK's participation in the programme "will not be possible” in light of Brexit, it was reported by the Politico website.

Northern Irish politicians said Belfast's bid should be treated as a special case. Credit: PA

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "absolutely dismayed" by the decision while the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it was "deeply disappointed".

The announcement is a blow for the five shortlisted UK locations, which include a joint bid from Belfast and Londonderry along with the cities of Leeds, Dundee, Nottingham, and Milton Keynes.

Host cities are given cash and support to create a year-long programme of cultural events which can offer a significant boost to tourism.

Candidate cities had previously believed they would be able to take part despite Brexit, on the basis that non-EU cities have held the title before.

Tom Watson, the Shadow Secretary of State for Digital,Culture, Media and Sport, said some host cities had spent up to £500,000 on their bid submissions in the belief they would be able to take them forward.

A number of cities said they would fight the decision.

Shortlisted cities had already poured significant resources into their bids. Credit: Dundee 2023

Dundee's campaign team said the "bombshell" announcement was "direspectful 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."

A statement said they were "seeking urgent meetings with the UK and Scottish Governments to discuss how the enthusiasm and imagination of Dundee’s bid can be taken forward."

Colum Eastwood, leader of the Northern Irish Social Democratic and Labour Party, said his party had written to the EU Commission to ask that the Belfast-Londonderry bid is treated "as a special case".

DUP MEP Diane Dodds also criticised the decision as "needless and spiteful posturing by the Commission".

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Other cities also said they were seeking more information and were "deeply disappointed" at reports they were being barred from taking part.

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Opening ceremony festivities for :Liverpool's sting as a Capital of Culture in 2008. Credit: AP

A European Commission spokesman said: "The decision to nominate Hungary and the UK as hosts of the European Capitals of Culture for 2023 was taken by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in 2014, two years before the UK decided to leave the EU.

"As one of the many concrete consequences of that UK decision, UK participation is no longer possible. It therefore makes sense to discontinue the selection process."

A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: "We disagree with the European Commission's stance and are deeply disappointed that it has waited until after UK cities have submitted their final bids before communicating this new position to us.

"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.

"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.

"We remain committed to working with the five UK cities that have submitted bids to help them realise their cultural ambitions and we are in urgent discussions with the commission on the matter."

A Number 10 spokesman said Norway, Turkey and Iceland had all been awarded the Capital of Culture despite not being in the EU.

"This would not have been the first time that a country that is not part of the EU has hosted the European Capital of Culture," the spokesman said.