Anger as Brexit looks set to upset Euro capital bid, but hope not lost

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Members of Derry City and Strabane District Council have expressed anger and disappointment over the European Commission’s 11th hour indication that Derry and Belfast’s joint bid for the European Capital of Culture title in 2023 will be ineligible.

Last week the Director General of Education and Culture at the European Commission Martine Reicherts wrote to the British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Karen Bradley, on behalf of European Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, to explain that no British or Northern Irish need apply for the title due to our ineligibility as a result of Brexit.

Standing orders were suspended at D&SDC’s monthly meeting on Thursday to allow discussion of the EC opinion, which was delivered to the DCMS just weeks after Belfast and Derry had jointly submitted their bid for the culture capital title.

The blow came as D&SDC, which has approved £300,000 towards the bid, was preparing to present its case to a DCMS judging panel in London today, Tuesday, November 28.

Sinn Féin councillor, Paul Fleming, said: “I’m mindful of the massive amount of work put in by council officers here and also in Belfast and of the citizens who have engaged in that process.

“Brexit has many detrimental knock-ons to the citizens of the Six Counties and Ireland in particular. Unfortunately this is playing out as another one of them. It’s early days yet but in one sense it seems as if the decision has been made against the wishes of people here.”

SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said: “When it was first brought to this council through the Business and Culture Committee in February, we were raising questions about what impact Brexit would have.

“We subsequently raised those questions again in April.

“We all know that the bid process commenced after Brexit so the European Commission knew full well that the winning city and region was going to be outside the EU, and again, our party were clearly indicating we wanted to remain as part of the EU. This is an example of Brexit having an impact that people in this region do not want to see.”

DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said: “I think we need to question why we were misled by the Euroepan bodies. Why did they accept our application and turn us down?”

Elsewhere, outside the Guildhall, Sinn Féin MEP, Martina Anderson said the bid was ‘rescuable’.

“If the British government make a declaration to the EU that the north can stay in the customs union and single market then the bid could continue,” she said.