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Barnier faces backlash in EU states over ‘aggressive’ bid to force Britain to stay in the customs union

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Michel Barnier is facing a backlash in some EU states for his ‘aggressive’ bid to force Britain into ‘soft’ Brexit.

The EU chief negotiator triggered a furious row with the UK last week when he claimed leaving the customs union would guarantee a hard Irish border.

He also threatened to call off the planned transition period if Britain does not obey EU laws and accept full free movement rules.

But the dramatic rhetoric has sparked deep concern among EU countries who fear it lead to the UK simply walking away from negotiations.

A Whitehall source told the Sunday Telegraph that French figures had voiced anger at the ‘lack of consultation’ on a draft document published by Mr Barnier on Wednesday.

It included a ‘punishment’ clause allowing Brussels to ground flights from the UK and impose tariffs if the EU rules during a transition.

Nordic and Eastern European countries were also ‘fracturing’ from the coalition following the ‘aggressive political opening salvo’.

Mr Barnier is expected to face demands to drop the clause when he holds talks with representatives from EU states this week.

One diplomat from a country sympathetic to the UK told the newspaper:’Could anyone accept these terms?

‘If I was Britain I would be tempted to say ‘no’ – walk away and then see how the EU does without the money.’

Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on Poland, said: ‘In private, many Polish politicians are expressing regret at the Commission not treating Britain with due consideration and respect.’

Brexit Secretary David Davis blasted back at Mr Barnier on Friday saying there was a ‘fundamental contradiction’ in his claims to want an amicable transition and strong powers for the EU to punish Britain.