Otago Daily Times
Belgium’s fishfight friend: King Charles II
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