Capital of Culture decision "an absolute disgrace"

23-Nov-2017 @ 16:30

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Capital of Culture decision "an absolute disgrace"

Today's exclusion of UK cities from the European Capital of Culture process has been condemned by Conservative MEPs.

Culture spokesman John Procter, who has been personally involved in Leeds' bid for the title in 2023, described the European Commission's surprise decision as "unnecessary and deeply unhelpful."

"Tens of thousands of pounds have been spent and organisations have come together in cities like Leeds to prepare very strong bids. For all that to be trashed at this late stage is an absolute disgrace.

"We are still members of the EU and are in the process of negotiating a new relationship. It beggars belief that the Commission has chosen this moment to announce we are not eligible to take part in an initiative that is all about fostering cultural links and bringing people together.

The Yorkshire and the Humber MEP added: "This is not the final word. I will be asking searching questions about exactly what is going on."

The UK had been due to provide one of two European Capitals of Culture in 2023, with the other coming from Hungary.

Bids have been submitted by Leeds, Nottingham, Milton Keynes, Dundee and Belfast/Derry, but the Commission has now announced that the UK is being barred because it will no longer be a member of the EU. Cities from Iceland and Norway, neither of which are EU members, have previously hosted the capital but the Commission says they qualified through their membership of the European Economic Area.

East Midlands MEP Rupert Matthews, whose constituency includes Nottingham, described the UK's exclusion as "an act of bad faith."

"We are looking to conclude an agreement with the EU which is not just about trade but develops our cultural and artistic links. The EU insists it wants that too, yet it makes an announcement like this out of the blue.

"The Commission has strung us along. I am determined this should not be the end of the road."

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