Belfast Telegraph

Belfast and Derry councils urge Westminster to fight EU on culture snub

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's two biggest councils are calling on the UK Government to help get their cities back on the shortlist to be the 2023 European Capital of Culture.

All five UK cities in the running were barred due to the fact the country won't be part of the EU in 2023.

Belfast City Council and Derry and Strabane District Council launched their joint bid for the title in July.

Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Dundee were also in the running for the accolade, which has the potential to provide a significant economic boost.

But the European Commission wrote to the Government earlier this month to tell it that no UK city would now eligible due to Brexit.

This week representatives of the two councils and their counterparts in the four other UK cities affected met with officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

They have now penned a joint letter to the department urging it to take further advice on the legal status of the announcement "as a matter of urgency".

The letter states: "On Tuesday we met with representatives of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport including John Glen MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Arts, Heritage and Tourism.

"We met to discuss the letter sent last week to the UK Government by the European Commission stating that the participation of the UK in the European Capital of Culture in 2023 will not be possible.

"The meeting with DCMS was positive and we were encouraged by the commitment to try and resolve this issue with the European Commission and agree a clear way forward for the cities involved.

"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 European Union and the terms of that departure are not yet agreed."

Around £350,000 has already been spent on the joint City of Culture campaign by the two local councils.

Belfast Telegraph

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