The Polish foreign minister has said that the UK may never leave the European Union (EU). Speaking after a high-profile visit to London, Witold Waszczykowski said the UK should remain in the bloc for "as long as possible" so Great Britain can "pay contributions for as long as possible".

Poland has been earmarked as a possible ally in the UK's negotiations with the bloc, although Waszczykowski has said he would prefer the UK to stay inside the EU. The foreign minister joined Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo on a 28 November trip to Downing Street, where she delivered a joint press conference with Theresa May and discussed guaranteeing the rights of Poles living in the UK.

But a day after his return from London, Waszczykowski has told the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita in an interview that the UK may not leave the EU at all.

"Brexit will not take place earlier than in two to three years, if it takes place at all," he said. "It is in our interest that Britain remain an EU state as long as possible and pay contributions as long as possible."

Theresa May has announced plans to trigger the estimated two-year process of leaving the EU no later than the end of March 2017. Leaders inside the bloc have repeatedly expressed their wish that the UK triggers Article 50 as soon as possible.

And amidst concerns that the UK may be offered a tough deal to deter other countries planning on leaving the bloc, Waszczykowski said there is "no need to treat Britain as a child with special needs, which is stigmatised and marginalised".

His comments come as the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, told British MPs that discussions over the status of reciprocal rights of UK and EU citizens would be held after the country triggers Article 50.

Responding to a letter from 81 MPs who were encouraging negotiations about expats in the UK and the EU to take place immediately to allay "anxieties" of those concerned, Tusk said: "Would you not agree that the only source of anxiety and uncertainty is rather the decision on Brexit?

"And that the only way to dispel the fears and doubts of all the citizens concerned is the quickest possible start of the negotiations based on Article 50 of the Treaty?"

Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski
Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said the UK should stay in the European Union for “as long as possible” Getty