newspaper 'Vote for Remain', Brexit.jpg
Photograph: EPA/HAYOUNG JEON

Britain's Brexit referendum exposed "strong and clear dividing lines" in society, which were "driven by decades of persistently high levels of economic inequality," anti-poverty group Oxfam said on Tuesday.

"The EU referendum vote was a stark illustration of just how polarized our society is, with millions of voters expressing their frustration at being locked out of politics and economic opportunity," Oxfam said.

Britain's richest 1 per cent have a combined wealth more than 20 times greater than the poorest 20 per cent, with "a massive disconnect between people with money and those without," the group said in a briefing note ahead of the publication of a report on inequality in Britain.

It said the report, based on research by the London School of Economics, will set out how Britain has become "an increasingly atomized society."

"The UK is one of the richest countries in the world, but it's a nation divided into the 'haves' and 'have-nots'," said Rachael Orr, head of Oxfam’s UK programme.

"While executive pay soars, one in five people live below the poverty line and struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table," Orr said.

The referendum in June, in which 52 per cent of voters opted to leave the European Union, exposed strong regional, social and generational divisions, Oxfam said.

The group cautiously welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May's promise last week to build "a truly meritocratic Britain." May has also vowed to make Britain "the global leader in free trade."

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