Leeds 2023: Bidders seek legal advice on European culture capital ban

UK cities facing a Brexit ban on their bids to become European Capital of Culture have warned Brussels that they will not be going without a fight.

Thursday, 30th November 2017, 12:36 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 7:19 am
Northern Ballet dancers perform at a Leeds 2023 event in March.

Leeds and the four other UK contenders for the 2023 title today issued a joint statement giving the latest details of their response to the ban, which was announced last week.

In it, they revealed they had asked the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to take advice on the “legal status of the announcement as a matter of urgency”.

The cities pointed out that a “calendar” agreed by the European Parliament and European Council in recent months had confirmed the UK as a culture capital host country for 2023.

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Brussels decision-makers said last Thursday that UK cities would not be able to hold the title after Brexit.

Signed by Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake, today’s statement said: “We all recognise the urgent need to reach a conclusion in a timescale that allows us to harness the momentum in our cities.

“Therefore intensive and constructive discussions will continue over the coming weeks.”

The UK contenders – who also include Dundee and Nottingham – submitted their 2023 bids at the end of last month, nearly 18 months after the EU referendum.

They held talks on Tuesday with representatives of the DCMS, including Arts Minister John Glen.

The bidders said today: “The meeting with DCMS was positive and we were encouraged by their commitment to try and resolve this issue with the European Commission and agree a clear way forward for the cities involved.”

The final cost of Leeds’s bid – which has been in the pipeline since 2014 – is expected to be £1m, with about £200,000 coming from the city council.

Coun Blake has said “all available guidance” was sought from the DCMS about UK eligibility following the EU referendum.

However, opposition councillors are calling for an investigation into the city’s decision to make its bid.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has written to the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker urging him to overturn the ban.