The Latest: EU: Irish border still issue in no-deal Brexit

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator says if Britain withdraws without a deal with the EU, he still wants to avoid a hard border in Ireland, where the U.K. and an EU member will meet

LONDON -- The Latest on Britain's exit from the European Union (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator says if Britain withdraws without a deal with the EU, he still wants to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Michel Barnier said at a conference on Wednesday the EU will have to protect consumers and businesses with checks on British goods if Brexit takes place on March 29 without an agreement.

Barnier said: "We will still have to do checks and controls somewhere." He didn't specific where the inspections might happen.

He said it would be most challenging in the Republic of Ireland, an EU member country that shares a land border with the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

Reintroducing a hard border there after a peace deal that ended decades of sectarian and nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland is a sensitive issue.

Barnier said: "We will have to find out an operational way to carrying out checks and controls without putting back in place a border."


2:10 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is working for a "well-ordered" Brexit as confusion reigns over how Britain is to leave the European Union on March 29.

Addressing delegates at the World Economic Forum, she said everyone involved in the EU is working out how to "deal with the shock of Brexit."

Merkel said she is looking for a "good" future partnership, particularly with regard to security and defense issues in which Britain has taken a lead in the EU. And on issues of trade, she said it would be best if the future relationship between Britain and the EU is as frictionless as possible.

She said, "the easier the relationship, the easier for all of us."

Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May overwhelmingly lost a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal with the EU. Since then, there's been growing talk that Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal or that it will end up extending its date of departure.


1:45 p.m.

Germany's economy minister says a request from Britain's government for an extension on the looming Brexit deadline would "certainly be considered seriously" — if a majority in Parliament seeks one.

Peter Altmaier says a no-deal or "hard" Brexit "must be avoided." He called for patience as the British parliament considers a new plan by Prime Minister Theresa May's government to make good on the verdict of the British people two years ago to leave the European Union.

Altmaier told reporters Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that Britain and the bloc share a "joint responsibility" to avoid a hard Brexit.

"We need clarity and we should work together," he said, alluding to the March 29 deadline for Britain to leave the bloc, with or without a deal.

"We have a debate going on in the U.K., and if a majority of the U.K. parliament and government would ask for such an extension, it would certainly be considered seriously."


1:10 p.m.

The Czech Parliament's lower house has approved a government plan to guarantee the near-term rights of British citizens in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit.

The plan means the roughly 8,000 Britons currently living in the country would retain their rights in the immediate aftermath of Brexit even if Britain crashes out of the EU in March with no deal.

They would retain basically the same rights as the citizens of EU countries for a transitional period until Dec. 31, 2020.

The upper house, the Senate, is also expected to approve it.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. After the British lawmakers rejected the divorce agreement Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the bloc, the prospect of a "no-deal" Brexit has been raised.


12 noon

The European Union is offering Britain an option to continue fishing in EU waters for the rest of the year in case of a no-deal Brexit, if Britain grants the same rights to EU fishermen.

The EU wants to mitigate the worst impact of a possible cliff-edge departure for Britain on March 29, and officials want to make sure that fishermen would not have to fundamentally change their decades-old fishing traditions overnight.

British and EU fishermen have long been fishing in each other's waters since they are all EU waters. Britain's departure could keep EU fishermen out and the same could happen to British boats in the waters of the 27 member states.

The EU Commission is also proposing financial compensation for EU fishermen if they find UK waters suddenly closed off.


11:20 a.m.

Britain's senior counter-terrorism police officer is warning of the dangers of leaving the European Union without a withdrawal deal in place.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said Wednesday that a "no-deal" Brexit that cut off Britain's access to shared data and intelligence systems would leave both Britain and the EU in a "very bad place."

Basu said the security threat would increase if Britain is not able to exchange data or biometrics on suspected criminals and terrorists as it currently does with EU nations.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU bloc on March 29. A "no-deal" Brexit is possible because the British Parliament has rejected the arrangement the government negotiated with EU leaders.

Basu says a police team is working on contingency plans to handle a "no-deal" departure.


10:45 a.m.

A senior British Cabinet minister says businesses need to prepare for the possibility the U.K. will leave the European Union in March without an exit deal, as a growing number of British firms say they are stockpiling goods or shifting operations overseas.

Last week British lawmakers threw out Prime Minister Theresa May's EU divorce deal, and attempts to find a replacement are gridlocked. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said Wednesday that "no deal is a possibility."

Many business groups say a "no-deal" Brexit will cause economic chaos by imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner.

Carolyn Fairbairn of the Confederation of British Industry says politicians must rule out a no-deal Brexit "to halt irreversible damage and restore business confidence."