Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico says he expects a divorce between the European Union and Britain to be painful — for Britain.

Fico, whose country currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, says the EU has to emerge as the more successful from negotiations about future EU-UK relations because otherwise Brexit could set an example for other countries to follow.

Speaking to students on Tuesday, Fico asked: "Was it us who expelled Britain? Didn't we do enough for it to stay?"

Fico says Britain should have continued access to the European Union's single market when it leaves only if it continues to allow citizens from member states to freely work in Britain.

Prime Minister Theresa May's government wants to control immigration from other EU countries while preserving an open trading relationship.