The Belgian ambassador who invoked the 1666 Privilegie der Visscherie given by Charles II of England to Flemish fishermen, just had a mic drop moment.
I think that it was a joke, though one can never be sure:
All is fair in love and cod war. And with the EU’s coastal states under pressure to give way on Britain’s demands for greater fishing catches in its waters post-Brexit, any old argument is worth a try.
When the issue of the future access of European fishing fleets was being discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday the Belgian government’s representative, Willem van de Voorde, made a notable intervention.
To the confusion of some, and the delight of others, the ambassador cited a treaty signed some 350 years ago by King Charles II which had granted 50 Flemish fishermen from Bruges “eternal rights” to English fishing waters. It was an important historical footnote illustrating the long relationship between Belgian fishermen and British waters, Van de Voorde suggested.
I hope that this was a joke, but one can never be sure with those wily Belgians.
“I wasn’t quite sure what he was on about but I think he was joking,” said one confused diplomat who had listened to Van de Voorde’s intervention. “But, then, you never know.”
While the validity of the Belgian claim is somewhat unlikely, the tensions in Brussels over fishing access for European fleets from 1 January are very real.
The UK has demanded a radical increase in fishing catches in its exclusive economic zone as it leaves the EU’s common fisheries policy.
I love obscure historical jokes.