UK: “Brexit means Brexit”
EU: “OK, you can’t be in the Capital of Culture contest any more.”
UK: “Wah, not like that!”
The website Politico had a minor scoop on its hands this morning, after it got hold of a leaked letter from the European Commission stating that the UK can no longer be part of European Capital of Culture.
What is amazing is how so many reputable news organisations (and Sky News) happily went along with the meme that rapidly developed on Twitter, implying this was a pure act of spite by the European Commission.
The European Commission has told the Government a UK city cannot be named a European Capital of Culture in 2023 despite the scheme being open to countries outside the EU
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) November 23, 2017
The above tweet is rather disingenuous. The rules are perfectly clear: to host the festivities, a country must be in the EU, or part of the EEA/EFTA, or be a candidate for membership. The “outside the EU” countries that have previously hosted have all met those requirements.
I will concede that the timing of the EC’s letter is poor, coming after the five potential host cities spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on bids. However, the UK government did warn last year that Brexit may have an impact on the bids. And given the reckless way the UK has been pursuing its exit, determined to take the UK out of any organisation with the letters E-U-R-O in its name, it can’t be too surprising that the European Commission have pulled the plug. Better now than in 2019 when even more money has been spent, I suppose.
Liverpool, of course, was the last (possibly ever) European Capital of Culture in the UK. I remember the joy I felt listening to the radio when the announcement was made in 2003. Five years later, I was shivering in the crowd outside St George’s Hall to watch the opening ceremony. Giant spiders, Paul McCartney playing Anfield, The MTV Europe Music Awards and many more events, large and small, contributed to a wonderful year.
Small wonder that studies after the event put the benefit to the local region at £750 million, not to mention the boost to the city’s image. It made a refreshing change to see camera crews in the city who were not doing yet another report on social deprivation. The benefits are still being felt nearly 10 years later.
On a personal level, the boost to my own opinion of my home town was incalculable. The received wisdom was that you had to move away from Liverpool to be a success at anything. That changed for me after 2008. Suddenly, it felt like anything was possible in this city (except Everton winning a title).
Thanks to myopic, shortsighted attitudes, no other city will receive that same boost to its economy and cultural life. It’s a sad indicator of what this country will lose by turning its back on Europe.
I do want to write a longer post on Brexit at some point. I need to get to the point where I can think about it without becoming angry and tearful, so you may be waiting some time.