A Brussels-imposed deadline for solving a post-Brexit fishing row has passed without an agreement being announced.
There had been suggestions on Friday that negotiations over fishing licences for small French boats in British waters could lead to a breakthrough.
But sources said there was no announcement expected from the UK Government as the midnight deadline came and went.
France had threatened to push the European Union for legal action and trade restrictions against Britain if there was not a “sign of goodwill” in the fishing row in time for a Friday deadline set by Brussels.
The European Commission had said it expected the dispute to be resolved by 12am.
French ministers suggested the EU could tell Britain that some of its products would no longer be allowed to be sold in the bloc as a punishment for failing to lay on more small boat permits in the English Channel.
The row centres on licences to fish in UK and Channel Islands waters under the terms of Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU – the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).
The main source of contention is the number of licences to fish in waters around the British coastline for smaller French vessels that can prove they operated there before Brexit.
France says Britain has not handed out enough licences to its fishermen, while the UK Government has insisted applications have been granted to those who have the correct documentation.
There are thought to be roughly 100 outstanding licences, from Paris’ perspective.
On Friday, France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, echoed earlier threats to ask the European Commission to start legal proceedings against the UK if it failed to grant more licences to French fishermen.
But he also suggested the talks could be extended past the deadline as long as the UK shows goodwill by offering “a few dozen extra licences”.
Speaking to France Info radio about the legal action he envisaged, Mr Beaune said: “A legal procedure does not just involve papers and courts, it’s also measures, for example customs measures, that Europe can take collectively to tell the British in certain sectors ‘since you do not respect the agreement, some of your products are not recognised’.”
Brussels has said the dispute must be settled by December 10 – but Downing Street said on Thursday it did not recognise the cut-off point.
Mr Beaune said the UK Government’s comment was “surprising”, adding: “It’s not really a sign of trust.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub