To the confusion of the some of those at the meeting and the delight of others Mr Van de Voorde quoted a treaty signed in 1666 by the then King of England Charles II. The treaty granted 50 Flemish fishermen from Bruges (West Flanders) “eternal rights” to fish in English waters. Mr Van de Voorde suggested that this was an important historical footnote that emphasised the long relationship between Flemish fishermen and British waters.
The treaty entitled “Privilegie der Visscherie” (Privilege of fisheries) was signed in 1666 when Bruges was part of the Southern Netherlands and under Spanish control. It was a show a gratitude on the part of Charles II for the hospitality that he was given when he stayed in Bruges during the interregnum that followed the decapitation of King Charles I and his own restoration to the English throne.
After the meeting one rather confused diplomat that had heard Mr Van de Voorde’s intervention told journalist “I wasn’t quite sure what he was on about, but I think he was joking. But, then again you never know.”