As some have observed, this blog maintains a low-grade obsession with cartography and European history. Although this story is a little light on the former, it’s equipped with some decent elements of the latter. Plus, it centers on Bruges, in Flanders, which we totally dug during a Christmas trip in 2015.
The opportunity for exploitation revolves around a charter granted in 1666 by Charles II of England to a bunch of fishermen in Bruges. Here’s a portion of an article in yesterday’s Telegraph that outlines the brilliant scheme:
“Belgium will invoke a 1666 Royal charter granting its fishermen the eternal right to fish British waters if there is a no deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson has threatened to quit negotiations with Brussels if a trade deal is not in sight by the October 15 EU summit. No deal will hit Belgian fisherman hard because they will face being shut out of British waters.
King Charles II granted 50 men of Bruges the right to fish UK waters for “eternity” after staying in the city during his 1656 to 1659 exile after the English Civil War that ended with the execution of his father.
The regional government of Dutch-speaking Flanders said it would use the ancient charter in the courts if necessary.
“Our goal is to reach a negotiated deal,” a spokesperson for Flemish Fisheries Minister Hilde Crevits told Belgian radio.
“But if we don’t reach a deal, we could invoke the charter. It dates back to 1666 but was confirmed by a UK lawyer in 1820.”
EU boats land about eight times more fish in UK waters than British fishermen do in EU waters. Three quarters of the fish sold in the Belgian port of Ostend are caught in British waters.
“One wonders if it is in Belgium’s, or anyone’s interests to start going back to such historic claims. A lot could get put back on the table,” a British source said.
Britain began fishing negotiations with the newly established Kingdom of Belgium in 1849. A treaty was signed but Belgium insisted at the time it was “without prejudice” to the 1666 “fishing privilege”.
The charter was rediscovered in Bruges city archives by alderman Victor Depaepe in 1963, who wrote to Queen Elizabeth pressing the claim.
Mr Depaepe, an accountant and owner of a fishing fleet, contrived to have himself arrested by the Royal Navy fishing off the coast of East Sussex.
British authorities never brought the case to court, which has fueled speculation prosecutors believed the charter could still be legally enforceable.”
Pretty cool, man!