The UK government on Thursday said it was not working to a Friday deadline given to it last month by the European Union to resolve a row with France over post-Brexit fishing rights.

"We've never set a deadline. I recognise they (the EU) themselves have set one but it's not one we're working to," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman told reporters.

Environment Secretary George Eustice was expected to hold talks with EU environment commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius on Friday, Downing Street said.

At a previous meeting between the pair on November 24, Sinkevicius gave Britain a December 10 deadline to resolve the issue of licences sought by French fishermen, who complain that post-Brexit requirements are too onerous.

Johnson's spokesman said that Eustice and Sinkevicius had spoken on Wednesday evening about progress so far on the licensing issues.

French fishing boats
French fishing boats return home following their protest in May 2021 in front of the port of Saint Helier off the British island of Jersey to draw attention to fishing restrictions in UK waters Photo: AFP / Sameer Al-DOUMY

But he said he was "not aware of certainly any communication we've had from the French government, certainly not to the Prime Minister".

"There's a technical process still ongoing based on evidence rather than set deadlines," the spokesman added, insisting talks so far "have been constructive".

France is demanding more fishing licences from London and the Channel Island of Jersey as part of the agreement which was signed on Christmas Eve last year.

European fishermen can continue to work in British waters as long as they can prove that they used to fish there.

But the French and British are arguing over the nature and extent of the evidence required.

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