THERESA May has been called on to compensate Dundee and the other UK cities, which have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds bidding to be 2023 European Capital of Culture, after Brussels ruled out Britain’s eligibility because of Brexit.

Dundee MPs Chris Law and Stewart Hosie have penned a letter to the Prime Minister and are tabling questions to ministers, demanding to know when the UK Government knew there was a possibility that the plug could be pulled on Britain’s participation in the European Capital of Culture[ECOC] contest and why they did not make this crystal clear to the bidding cities.

It is believed that Dundee has spent around £500,000 on its bid to date.

The Scottish city as well as Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, and a joint Belfast-Londonderry-Strabane bid were all in the running for the accolade, which has given a major financial and cultural boost to previous winners, including Glasgow in 1990.

The European Commission said its decision to exclude the UK was "one of the many concrete consequences" of Brexit.

Mr Law told The Herald: “The people of Dundee, like me, will feel let down by this. The city has put a huge amount of time and effort into this bid. I raised this issue last year with Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and he assured me there was no doubt about UK cities being able to bid.”

Last November during Foreign Office Questions the Dundee West MP asked for Mr Johnson’s “personal commitment” that the competition would go ahead as planned in light of reports that his Cabinet colleague, Karen Bradley, the Culture Secretary, wanted Britain to abandon hosting the 2023 ECOC.

Mr Johnson replied at the time: “We may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe and we are certainly not leaving the EU for a small time to come.

“In that time, we are fully paid-up members and we should take part to the full, including in such cultural co-operation as he describes and we will do so. We will also continue to take part in such European cultural ventures beyond our exit from the EU.”

Asked if Dundee and the other cities should now be financially compensated, Mr Law replied: “Absolutely.” Fully? “Of course.”

He added: “In terms of the money that has already been spent, the UK Government should bear the responsibility because up until now we had no indication there was a problem.”

Mr Hosie added: “We need to know what the Government knew and when. If people were just strung a line and effectively wasted a lot of money, then, yes, the UK Government needs to compensate them in full.”

The controversy was raised at First Minister’s Questions where Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs: "I'm absolutely dismayed by the news that I've heard this morning from the European Commission that Dundee's European Capital of Culture bid looks as if it is going to be the latest victim of the Tories' obsession with taking this country out of the European Union against our will and they should hang their heads in shame."

The First Minister added: "It is now deeply concerning that the amount of time, effort and expense that Dundee have put into scoping out their bid could be wasted thanks to the Brexit policy of this Tory Government."

At Westminster, Iain Stewart, Tory MP for Milton Keynes South, said it "seems a very bitter decision" by the Commission as "we are not turning our backs on Europe yet this looks like they are turning their backs on us".

DUP MEP for Northern Ireland Diane Dodds said: "This is needless and spiteful posturing by the Commission.

"In spite of the assurances that they will not act in malice or attempt to punish the UK, here we have an example of the schoolboy pettiness we have come to expect from Brussels.

"Indeed to have waited until the UK's cities spent considerable money and resources before making this decision demonstrates the malevolent intentions of those involved," she added.

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said: "We are aware that the Department for Culture is still in discussions with the European Commission on behalf of all five cities involved and are seeking urgent clarification on the matter.

"We are, however, deeply disappointed with this recent development, but are committed to ensuring that the time, energy, enthusiasm, ideas and resources put into our bid are carried forward regardless."

Tom Watson, the Shadow Culture Secretary, described the Commission's decision as a "great shame" and said some cities had already spent up to £500,000 on their bids.

"The Government must now explain how they intend to ensure that Brexit does not leave us culturally isolated from Europe and how the economic and cultural benefits that accompany the European Capital of Culture will be maintained," he added.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport[DDCMS] said it was "deeply disappointed" by the Commission’s decision.

The PM’s spokesman said the UK Government disagreed with it and was now in “urgent discussion” with the Commission on the matter.

Asked if Mrs May would raise the issue with EU leaders on Friday when she is in Brussels for an EU Eastern Partnership Forum, he said he would not prejudge what she would say but this was “being taken up with the Commission at the moment”.

Asked if there was a hope the EU could overturn its decision, he repeated how the UK Government disagreed with and was disappointed by it.

The spokesman pointed out that the UK hosting ECOC in 2023 would not have been the first time a non-EU member had done it and pointed to Iceland in 2000, Turkey in 2008 and Norway in 2010.

However, the ECOC eligibility rules state that countries, which are not in the EU, can still bid if they are members of the European Economic Area, which Iceland and Norway are, or if they are candidate countries, which Turkey is. Once Britain leaves the EU, it will be neither in the EEA nor a candidate country wanting to join the EU.

The DDCMS was asked on what basis the Government would challenge the Commission’s decision but it did not respond.

A European Commission spokesman explained: "The decision to nominate Hungary and the UK as hosts of the European Capitals of Culture for 2023 was taken by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in 2014, two years before the UK decided to leave the EU.

"As one of the many concrete consequences of that UK decision, UK participation is no longer possible. It therefore makes sense to discontinue the selection process."

Guidance issued by the UK Government when the competition was launched in December 2016 said the UK was "still a full and active member of the EU" and, therefore, "the competition for the European Capital of Culture 2023 will run as normal".

But it continued: "We are committed for the UK to host the title in 2023. However, bidding cities should be aware that the European Capital of Culture title may be subject to the outcome of those exit negotiations which could have a bearing on the UK's participation and the Government will advise bidding cities on this once negotiations have concluded."