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European Commission says Brexit vote means a British city can’t be awarded the title of European Capital of Culture in 2023.

Belfast/Derry, Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds and Milton Keynes had expressed an interest in being the 2023 host.

In a letter the European Commission says the British application should be “discontinued” because of the Brexit vote. After Brexit, “the participation of the United Kingdom in the European Capital of Culture action will not be possible,” says the letter, written by Martine Reicherts, director-general in the Commission’s education and culture department.

Istanbul, Reykjavík and Stavanger in Norway have all been European Capitals of Culture despite not being part of the EU. Cities in both the U.K. and Hungary are due to be awarded the title in 2023.

But Reicherts said the scheme is only open to EU countries, candidates to join the bloc and members of the European Economic Area — and the U.K. will be none of those when it leaves the EU in 2019.

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party in the UK, said “The news that the UK has been shunned from this European cultural competition is a great shame… Some cities have already spent up to £500,000 on their bid submissions.”

He added that the government “must now explain how they intend to ensure that Brexit does not leave us culturally isolated from Europe and how the economic and cultural benefits that accompany the European Capital of Culture will be maintained.”

Two British cities have been European Capital of Culture: Glasgow in 1990 and Liverpool in 2008.

UK Excluded from European Capital of Culture