Brexit bombshell: EU can force Boris Johnson to surrender fishing waters with 1666 treaty

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Daily Express :: UK Feed 

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised fishermen sovereignty over UK waters after Brexit. However, his pledge already appears extremely hard to deliver. Britain will be told hours after leaving the EU that work must begin on a new agreement in order to meet the July 1 commitment for a deal agreed in the political declaration.

According to European sources, one of the first requests from Brussels will be demanding the UK cedes access to its fishing waters to EU trawlermen as part of any future trade deal.

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France’s Emmanuel Macron will reportedly maintain his hardline approach to Brexit by championing the bloc’s fisheries demands.

Sources close to the French President claimed he could even block any future deal unless his requests are met for access to British waters.

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It also appears EU states could have an ace up their sleeve: an ancient treaty that could make a mockery of the UK’s efforts to take back control of its seas.

According to a 2017 Telegraph report, Flemish politicians are in possession of a 350-year-old royal charter, which grants “eternal rights” to Belgian trawlermen to fish in British waters, even after Brexit.

King Charles II signed the “privilege” on October 2, 1666.

Charles signed the treaty to express his gratitude for being granted refuge in Bruges during the Interregnum, having been driven from Britain in 1651 by Oliver Cromwell.

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He regained the throne in June 1660 and was determined to thank his sympathisers from the Cromwell years thereafter.

Geert Bourgeois, the ex-Prime Minister of the Belgian region of Flanders said in 2017, that the “fisheries privilege” granted 50 fishermen from Bruges access to British waters “for eternity”.

Speaking to Flemish TV, he unearthed a copy of the document, which was discovered in 1963 in Bruges’ archives.

He suggested that the British would be afraid it could be legally enforceable.

It is not clear whether the terms of the treaty would still apply today.

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Spokeswoman for Mr Bourgeois, Lisa Lust, told The Telegraph that Britain had shied away from testing the legality of the “privilege” in 1963, one year before the London Convention was agreed.

A Bruges alderman ventured into British waters, she said, and deliberately had himself arrested in the hope of being taken to court.

She noted: “Documents from the British archives later revealed that it was advised against taking the Belgian to court because of fears concerning the 1666 charter.

“They were afraid it would still be in force.”

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Ms Lust admitted the chances were small but that it was “not completely impossible” the charter grants Bruges fishermen some rights.

Moreover, Antwerp University history professor Luc Duerloo told The I: “In theory, such privilege can only be undone if the Parliament explicitly approves a law.

“That’s never happened, so in principle the privilege still applies.”

During his stay in Bruges, Charles was an active member of the civil society and became a member of the Saint Joris Guild, through which he made some strategic friendships.

Once he regained the throne in England, his earlier guide and friend in Bruges, the knight Arrazola de Oñate was named “exceptional” ambassador to Charles by the Spanish King Philip IV with the intention to negotiate a trade treaty.

Although the treaty has been lost, the City of Bruges still possesses the charter granting privileges to its fishermen to fish in English waters.

The charter was never really tested until 1851 due to the numerous conflicts that affected Europe between its signing and the mid-19th century.

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Brexit bombshell: EU can force Boris Johnson to surrender fishing waters with 1666 treaty

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised fishermen sovereignty over UK waters after Brexit. However, his pledge already appears extremely hard to deliver. Britain will be told hours after leaving the EU that work must begin on a new agreement in order to meet the July 1 commitment for a deal agreed in the political declaration.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson  promised fishermen sovereignty over UK waters after Brexit . However, his pledge already appears extremely hard to deliver. Britain will be told hours after leaving the EU that work must begin on a new agreement in order to meet the July 1 commitment for a deal agreed in the political declaration.

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