Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has written to the European Commission’s President Jean-Claude Juncker urging him to overturn the decision to ban UK cities from holding the title after Brexit.
She has also written to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley asking her to do everything she can to support efforts to correct the “huge injustice”.
Both letters have been signed by Ms Reeves’ fellow Leeds Labour MPs – Hilary Benn, Richard Burgon, Fabian Hamilton and Alex Sobel – and two of the city’s Conservative MPs, Andrea Jenkyns and Alec Shelbrooke.
The letters have also been signed by MPs from the other four UK places that submitted bids to be named European Capital of Culture in 2023. Ms Reeves said: “There is no reason that Leeds and other cities should be denied the chance to showcase the fantastic culture, venues and talent we have to offer. Other non-EU cities have been selected as the European Capital of Culture in past years. It would be a huge injustice if British cities like Leeds are blocked from taking part in the bidding process purely on the grounds of Brexit.”
She added: “It is utterly inexplicable that the EU waited until after the UK bids were submitted before ruling them ineligible.”
Brussels confirmed details of the culture capital ban for UK cities on Thursday, saying it was “one of the many concrete consequences” of Brexit. The final cost of Leeds’s bid is expected to be £1m, with around £200,000 coming from the city council.
Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake has said “all available guidance” was sought from the Government about UK eligibility following 2016’s EU referendum.
But opposition councillors are calling for an investigation into the decision to bid, questioning whether “due diligence” was carried out regarding the possible impact of Brexit.