A prominent British politician says he has resigned from the government because the ruling Conservative Party is narrowly focused on cutting welfare benefits and is losing sight of the need to make sure everyone shares in the pain of austerity.

Iain Duncan Smith says the government risks dividing society unless it stops focusing solely on cutting benefits for working-age people.

Duncan Smith told the BBC on Sunday that he was "resigning because I want my government to think again about this and get back to that position that I believe, about being one nation."

The comments came after Duncan Smith's resignation sparked headlines about war within the ruling party and speculation that it was spurred by differences over whether Britain should remain part of the 28-nation European Union.