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European Union Brexit envoy Michel Barnier says his team is studying new ways to check goods moving into Northern Ireland in an effort to overcome a major obstacle in the negotiations.
Brussels and London are still seeking a solution that would keep the border open between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland, just six months before Britain leaves the bloc.
Barnier said Tuesday that his team believes most checks on goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland "can take place away from the border, at a company premises or in the markets."
The goods could then move freely from Northern Ireland into Ireland.
Barnier said that the EU is examining which goods "need to be checked. And where, when and by whom these checks could be performed."
He added: "In no case will it constitute a border."
BMW says it is scheduling a weeks-long shutdown of its Mini plant in England to coincide with Brexit as insurance against supply hiccups from a disorderly British departure from the European Union.
The German automaker says annual maintenance at its Cowley factory will begin April 1 — the first working day after Brexit on March 29 — and last several weeks. The shutdown usually takes place in summer.
BMW said Tuesday that it had made the decision "to minimize the risk of any possible short-term parts-supply disruption in the event of a no-deal Brexit."
The company said it considered that "worst-case scenario" unlikely, but added "we have to plan for it."
Britain and the EU have not yet finalized their divorce agreement, stirring fears among businesses of disruption to trade.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Tuesday that the U.K. will flourish with or without an agreement on its relationship with the European Union after it leaves the grouping next year.
A "no-deal" Brexit is possible, he said in an interview in Tokyo, "but I don't think it's in anyone's interest for that to happen. So that's why we are cautiously optimistic that we will get a deal. But there's a lot of work to do to get there."
British Prime Minister Theresa May travels to Salzburg, Austria, on Wednesday to meet other EU leaders. She needs to win over both the European Union and critics of her Brexit proposal within her own Conservative Party. Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29.
A top European Union official says Britain and the EU could yet fail to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce, just six months before the U.K. is due to leave the bloc.
EU Council President Donald Tusk wrote Tuesday that "unfortunately, a no deal scenario is still quite possible. But if we all act responsibly, we can avoid a catastrophe."
His warning came in an invitation letter to EU leaders for a summit in Salzburg, Austria, starting Wednesday evening.
Tusk, who will chair the meeting, wants the 27 leaders — minus Prime Minister Theresa May — to reach agreement on the terms of a text outlining their future relations with Britain after it leaves next March.