The campaign trail had been ignited; the bid had begun. Nottingham had declared itself a candidate in the 2023 race to be named European Capital of Culture. Social media accounts had been created; banners adorned the square; time had been sacrificed; money had been invested. And then came the devastating news: Nottingham, along with the five other UK cities in the running, was no longer eligible to run for the title because of the looming Brexit bill.
Disappointing is an understatement, but was this decision justified? Was it fair, or a sly and vengeful move on behalf of the European Union?
“The city’s bid was strong and brimming with potential”
The nomination as European Capital of Culture is said to ‘highlight the richness and diversity of cultures in Europe’, and Nottingham certainly had a lot on its side. With a cultured history featuring the ever-famous Robin Hood, the permanent recognition as a UNESCO City of Literature, a collaborative local network of artists and musicians, and one of the most youthful, up-and-coming populations in the country, the city’s bid was strong and brimming with potential. What’s more, the title is recognised by the EU as having the ability to bring regeneration and a breath of new life into the reigning city, raising its international profile and bringing about an invaluable economic boost. With 35% of local children living in poverty, Nottingham was all too ready to reap these rewards.
The greatest unfairness lies in the timing of Britain’s exclusion from the running. The country was instructed to put forward candidate cities even after the Brexit vote, and until recently there has been no question about British eligibility. To eliminate the nominated cities at this stage of the process, especially when thousands of pounds have already been invested in the campaigns, is nothing short of outrageous.
“What’s most significant in light of this ruling is the concern about the all-too-possible cultural isolation fro Europe that Brexit seems to be inciting”
Yet the European Union explicitly states that recipients of the European Capital of Culture must be a member state, part of the European Economic Area or in the process of applying for EU membership. It’s unquestionable that post-Brexit, Britain will fit none of these specified criteria. Thus, to allow Britain to enter would be a clear act of unfair favouritism and would likely create hostility amongst other European countries, whether or not they are members of the EU. What’s most significant in light of this ruling is the concern about the all-too-possible cultural isolation from Europe that Brexit seems to be inciting. It looks like the government has some explaining to do about how it hopes to avoid these economic and cultural losses in a post-Brexit country.
It appears that our separation from Europe is set to become a great deal more significant than the English Channel. Brexit poses a serious risk of creating an isolated and introspective country with little connection to both Europe and the rest of the world. The loss of eligibility in the race to be European Capital of Culture is yet another signifier of this sad truth.