The European Commission, a governing body of the European Union, announced the cancellation this week, with a spokesperson calling it “one of the concrete consequences of [Britain’s] decision to leave the European Union” in 2019. The move is a gutpunch to the five locations that were bidding to be designated the European Capital of Culture in 2023—Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, and Belfast/Derry. “It’s a sad irony that one of the key drivers of our bid was a desire to further enhance our cultural links with Europe,” Dundee’s bid team told the BBC. British government representatives and cultural organizations also expressed shock and disappointment at the decision. “The prime minister has been clear that while we are leaving the EU, we are not leaving Europe and this has been welcomed by EU leaders,” said a spokesperson for the U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. While three cities outside the European Union have been designated the European Capital of Culture, EU rules dictate that the only non-EU countries eligible for the title are those formally a part of European Free Trade Association or European Economic Area. Britain’s membership in either is uncertain, with negotiations over the country’s exit from the EU continuing.