The cross-Channel ferry operator SeaFrance has been ordered to close by a French court, putting more than 1,000 people out of work.
Although the bulk of the redundancies will occur across the Channel, the company told Sky News that 127 British workers have also lost their jobs.
It rejected a plan by the loss-making firm's employees to save SeaFrance through a worker co-operative.
Employees who had gathered outside the court ahead of the verdict were dismayed by the news.
The offer from local shipping firm Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and Danish ferry company DFDS (Copenhagen: DFDS.CO - news) was rejected as too many jobs would be lost, while a management buyout plan backed by a loan from the national rail company SNCF was vetoed on competition grounds.
As French elections draw near, concerns over employment and the wider economy have featured high in discussions.
The country's President, Nicolas Sarkozy, said last week that trying to save the 880 jobs at the ferry operator was his "duty".
Reacting to the news from Berlin, where he was meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel over the eurozone crisis, he said a solution was still possible.
With unemployment at a 12-year high, and job cuts across all industries, the French President is due to hold a jobs summit on January 18 at which he is aiming to gain the agreement of unions and employment groups on loosening labour laws to allow firms to adjust to the downturn by shortening workers' hours rather than making them redundant.
SeaFrance said any customers with existing bookings will be offered a refund.