The announcement is a huge blow for five cities - Dundee, Nottingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes and Belfast/Derry - that have already submitted bids involving millions of pounds and significant amounts of time.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has said the government is in “urgent discussions” with the Commission about the decision.
A statement added: “We disagree with the European Commission’s stance and are deeply disappointed that it has waited until after UK cities have submitted their final bids before communicating this new position to us,” a statement said.
“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.”
But the rules are quite clear - some of the outrage was directed at the fact two countries not in the EU have been bestowed the honour in the past - Istanbul, Turkey in 2010 and Bergen, Norway in 2000.
The reason these two cities were allowed to enter is because the competition is open to “cities in EFTA/EEA countries, candidate countries and potential candidates for EU membership”.
Norway is a EFTA/EEA member country and Turkey has long been a potential candidate for EU membership, negotiations began in 2005 and are ongoing.
After Brexit the UK will be neither.
This appears to have been lost on a number of outraged Brexiteers and top of the list was Nigel Farage and the Leave.EU campaign.
Farge took an almost poetic tone...
Meanwhile Arron Banks seemed positively jovial...
Although that wasn’t reflected on the pro-Brexit website he co-founded.
And they weren’t the only apparent Brexiteers outraged at the decision...
Ms Lady decried the EU’s “bullying”.
Dave isn’t distracted by mere semantics.
And SPJ has gone all end of the world.
Of course, some people just didn’t seem that bothered at all.
The call for entries was made in December 2016, after the EU referendum but the DCMS did warn on its website that “bidding cities should be aware that the ECOC [European Capital of Culture] title may be subject to the outcome of exit negotiations which have a bearing on the UK’s participation”.