BRITAIN should set up its own Commonwealth City of Culture if it is barred from the European initiative, according to a Leeds MP.

Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough MP Stuart Andrew is calling for every effort to be made to change the mind of the European Commission. But if that fails he is suggesting a new initiative involving the commonwealth.

Mr Andrew put forward his idea after the Commission said the UK will not be able to take part in the European Capital of Culture in 2023.

That decision has come as a huge blow to British cities - including Leeds - which have already submitted their bids.

This week Mr Andrew said: "It is such a shame that Leeds may no longer be able to participate in the European Capital City of Culture initiative. It is a scheme which has galvanised local communities, with people working together across Leeds to come up with exciting ideas for what could happen, if the bid were to be successful in 2023. I have seen some absolutely fantastic work and I have made it clear to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that I hope that they can do everything they can to change the mind of the European Commission and let us remain in the scheme.

"If, however, it does prove that the decision from the European Commission stands, we must use all those ideas and put them into practice in a new project, which will showcase our culture on a truly global scale. There are so many fantastic and interesting countries in the Commonwealth, that we could start our own city of culture for all of those countries, which would be a chance for celebration in a truly inclusive new initiative.

"It is so important that we do not let any of the positive energy so far go to waste and I will be channelling all my efforts into making sure Leeds’ case is heard going forward.”

When the Commission made its shock statement in November Leeds City Council Leader Judith Blake said: "We are hugely frustrated by the European Commission’s apparent proposal to remove the opportunity for a UK city to host the European Capital of Culture title in 2023. This announcement has been made after cities have submitted their 80 page bids and just four working days before the city was due to meet with the panel is shocking.

"As a city, we have pursued this title with enthusiasm, diligence and determination, following the process to the letter throughout and to have the rug pulled from under us at this late stage would be a huge blow."

Leeds joined forces with four other bidding British cities to meet with representatives from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport last week.

In a joint statement the five cities - Leeds, Belfast, Dundee, Milton Keynes and Nottingham - said:

"The meeting with DCMS was positive and we were encouraged by their commitment to try and resolve this issue with the European Commission and agree a clear way forward for the cities involved."

They are calling on the DCMS to take further urgent advice on the legal status of the announcement.