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Britain can no longer host the European Capital of Culture because of Brexit

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The European Commission has told the UK government that a British city can no longer take part in the European Capital of Culture scheme, even though the scheme is open to other non-EU countries.

Politico has obtained a letter stating the British application should be “discontinued” because of the Brexit vote, despite the UK being scheduled to host the event in 2023. Candidate cities including Leeds, Dundee, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Belfast/Derry are in the midst of preparing bids, using public funding.

The scheme was founded in 1985 to bring European funding for arts and cultural projects to cities, helping to kickstart investment in regeneration and tourism, by putting the city on an international stage. It has become a way for cities outside capitals to develop their cultural offering. Liverpool hosted in 2008 – and as a result launched initiative Culture Liverpool – and Glasgow in 1990.

In the letter, director general for education and culture for the European Commission Martine Reicherts writes that participation is not open to third countries, except for candidate countries and EFTA (European Free Trade Association) and EEA (European Economic Area) countries under “strictly defined conditions”. These have previously included Iceland and Norway. The UK government’s Brexit strategy, including leaving the EEA and single market, therefore appears to have influenced the decision. Reicherts also cites “sound and responsible management of human and financial resources”.