Marks & Spencer said today that it would be meeting with the Works Council in France later this month to thrash out plans to close its 18 French stores.

The retailer had a meeting with the Works Council today to draw up an agenda for a more formal meeting on April 24. Items on the agenda at the crunch meeting include the process and timings as well as a redundancy package for workers.

A French civil court ruled yesterday that it must suspend its plan to shut its loss-making network of French stores.

An M&S spokesman told just-food yesterday’s ruling merely “legalised” what the company was planning to do.

The spokesman said: “We are not looking to close our stores straight away. We are looking at a timescale towards the end of the year.”

One of the staff unions has said it plans to organise a protest march in London late this month or early in May. M&S announced on March 29 that it was planning to close its European stores, put its two US businesses up for sale and close its UK Direct home-catalogue business and concentrate on its UK stores.