Otago Daily Times

Bel­gium’s fish­fight friend: King Charles II

- European Politics · UK News · Politics · Belgium · King Charles · United Kingdom · London · European Union · England · Charles II of England · Bruges · North Sea · Zeebrugge · Privilege

BRUGES: Bel­gium may re­sort to a 17th­cen­tury char­ter granted by King Charles II to re­tain fish­ing rights in Bri­tain’s coastal wa­ters if Lon­don and the Euro­pean Union fail to agree a trade deal.

With just over two months un­til Bri­tain ends its tran­si­tion pe­riod out of the EU, Bel­gium will lose ac­cess to much of the area it fishes in the North Sea if there is no deal.

How­ever, a doc­u­ment in Latin is­sued to Flan­ders in July 1666 gives 50 Flem­ish fish­ing boats ac­cess to Bri­tish wa­ters for per­pe­tu­ity.

‘‘Know­ing how Bri­tain is at­tached to old habits and old laws, it may have a chance,’’ said Jan d’Hondt, the head ar­chiv­ist in the port city of Bruges.

Charles II signed the doc­u­ment as a ges­ture to the city that gave him refuge after his father was be­headed dur­ing Eng­land’s

Civil War in 1649, grant­ing the cit­i­zens of Bruges the right to use 50 fish­ing boats in Bri­tish wa­ters.

While Bel­gian boats no longer sail from Bruges but from nearby Zee­brugge, the doc­u­ment, known as the Priv­i­lege, is still valid, said Hilde Cre­vits, Flan­ders’ econ­omy min­is­ter.

‘‘More than half of our fish­ing in­come comes from fish caught in Bri­tish wa­ters. So if we lose ac­cess to that Bri­tish water or if our quo­tas go too far down, it could be the death knell for our fish­eries,’’ Cre­vits said.

‘‘As a con­se­quence, if you have a very old doc­u­ment . . . where the king says you have the eter­nal right to sail with 50 boats in those coastal wa­ters, yes, then we will use that if nec­es­sary.’’

Bri­tain and the EU re­sumed their talks on a trade deal yes­ter­day, with fish­eries among sev­eral is­sues block­ing the way. — Reuters

 ?? PHOTO: REUTERS ?? The original ‘‘Fish­eries ilege’’ doc­u­ment.
PHOTO: REUTERS The original ‘‘Fish­eries ilege’’ doc­u­ment. Priv

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