Britain and France have reached an agreement over scallop fishing in the English Channel, the UK's food and agriculture ministry has said.

The deal comes after fishermen from both countries became embroiled in a clashes at sea last month.

French fishermen had accused the British of unfairly catching scallops in the English Channel during the summer, when French boats were banned from doing so because of French regulations aimed at protecting shellfish stocks.

"The UK and French fishing industries and governments held constructive talks today about scallop fishing in the eastern Channel including Baie de Seine," the governments of both countries said in a joint statement issued by Britain's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

"An agreement on the principles of a deal has been reached."

The dispute centres on the size of the boats that are allowed to fish in the Baie de Seine.

The two countries said a previous agreement involving British vessels 15 metres and over would be renewed and in addition there was an agreement in principle for British vessels under 15 metres to be included, subject to a "reasonable"compensation package that would be defined in Paris on Friday.

In the meantime there was a voluntary deal for all British boats to respect the French closure period.

The dispute arose as the UK negotiates its exit from the European Union, with fishing and access to waters a particularly sensitive issue in key areas for the government.