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Bidding cities urge DCMS to take legal advice over 2023 Capital of Culture decision

The five cities that were planning to bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023 have called on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to take legal advice on a European Commission statement that the UK’s participation will not be possible.

Martine Reicherts, Director-General in the Commission’s Education and Culture Department, is reported to have written to Sue Owens within the DCMS stating that the British application for the title of European Capital of Culture should be discontinued in light of Brexit and the ongoing negotiations.

Representatives of the five bidders – Belfast/Derry, Dundee, Leeds, Nottingham and Milton Keynes – had a meeting earlier this week with the DCMS about the Commission’s letter.

In a joint statement the bidding authorities said: “Firstly we want to acknowledge the huge and passionate support we have all received locally, nationally and internationally since the receipt of this letter.

“In particular we appreciate the support from previous and future European Capitals of Culture, and from members of the independent judging panel which itself had expected to be interviewing our teams this week as part of the formal shortlisting process.”

The  bidders added: “We urged the Department to continue its negotiations with the European Commission on the legitimacy of its latest decision. In particular we wish to highlight that the announcement by the European Commission counters a very recent decision of the European Parliament in June 2017 and of the Council in September 2017 which includes a calendar confirming the UK as the host country in 2023. In addition we are seeking clarity given that the United Kingdom has not yet left the EU and the terms of that departure are not yet agreed.

“We have collectively therefore requested that DCMS takes further advice on the legal status of the announcement as a matter of urgency.”

The bidders added that the Commission’s “sudden change of heart” had the potential to disrupt more than 100 cultural collaborations across the continent which bidding cities have been developing in good faith.

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