If the European Union punishes Britain in Brexit talks, it will fuel the desire of other states to break away from the bloc. So said British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt on September 30.

“At the moment you seem to think the way to keep the club together is to punish a member who leaves,” he said at the governing Conservative Party’s annual conference in Birmingham.

“The lesson from history is clear: if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish it will grow, and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape,” Hunt was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.

In a separate report, The Independent noted that Hunt used extraordinary rhetoric to criticise EU leaders for turning their backs on the “confidence and ideals of the European dream”.

Instead, he told the Conservative conference, Brussels appeared to “think the way to keep the club together is to punish a member who leaves”.

“What happened to the confidence and ideals of the European dream?” he asked. “The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving.

According to The Intendent, Hunt also invoked Margaret Thatcher’s famous battle cry against EU centralisation, saying: “We understand the EU wants to protect itself.

“But if the only way to deal with the UK leaving is to try to force its break up, as someone much more distinguished than me once said, the answer is ‘No No No’.”