The European Commission has told the UK it can’t host the European Capital of Culture in 2023, despite it being open to other countries that aren’t in the union.

Regardless of a previous assurance that Britain’s vote to leave the EU would not affect the hosting of the 2023 contest, the European Commission told the U.K Government that its participation “would not be possible” and its selection process should “immediately be discontinued.

Istanbul, Reykjavik and Stavander in Norway have all been European Capitals of Culture despite not being part of the EU.

Martine Reicherts, director-general in the Commission’s education and culture department, said the scheme is only open to EU countries, candidates to join the bloc and members of the European Economic Area. The U.K. won’t be in any of these once it leaves the EU in 2019.

Tom Watson, Deputy leader for the Labour Party said “the news that the U.K. has been shunned from this European cultural competition is a great shame for the whole country.

Some cities have already spent up to £500,000 on their bid submissions.
Tom Watson, Deputy Leader for Labour

He said it was particularly hard on the cities that had put in bids to be the European Capital of Culture 2023. “Some have spent up to £500,000 on their bid submissions.”

The Nottingham bid was launched in August, joining Leeds, Dundee, Belfast and Milton Keynes.

Nottingham wanted to use its “Robin Hood spirit” to encourage people to “take back culture into their own hands.”

Titled “Nottingham 2023: Breaking the Frame” it set out a series of cultural events which would have gone ahead if the bid was successful.

Previously awarded to Glasgow in 1990 and Liverpool in 2008, the winner was expected to benefit from an economic boost worth hundreds of millions of pounds.