France has called on the European Union not to “humiliate” Britain in Brexit negotiations, warning that this approach will fuel anti-EU sentiment ahead of next year’s European Parliament elections.

“Our position is quite simple,” French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux told the Associated Press (AP). “There is no question of punishing anyone with regard to Brexit.”

Losing an EU member was “never good news and we should never humiliate or punish them”, Griveaux said.

“That’d the worst thing that could happen and I think it would reinforce the anti-European sentiment in many countries where we have elections coming up in a year,” he said, warning that eurosceptics could win a majority of seats in the European Parliament for the first time in 2019 elections.

As reported by the Agence France-Presse (AFP), Griveaux also urged unity in the face of any attempts by Britain to exploit differences between EU members to try to get a better deal.

“There cannot… be bilateral deals with different countries. The strength of the 27 is to have a single representative, Michel Barnier, who is negotiating for the 27,” he said.

During his visit to the UK last month, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke in favour of a special post-Brexit deal with the EU, which would go further than a regular trade agreement but fall short of full access to the single market.