United Kingdom

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United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Anthem: "
  • 2.0% Mixed
  • 0.9% other
  • Religion
    Constituent countries
    GovernmentUnitary[e] parliamentary
    constitutional monarchy
    • Monarch
    Charles III
    Rishi Sunak
    1535 and 1542
    24 March 1603
    22 July 1706
    1 May 1707
    1 January 1801
    5 December 1922
    • 2023 estimate
    68,138,484[11] (21st)
    • 2011 census
    63,182,178[12] (22nd)
    • Density
    270.7/km2 (701.1/sq mi) (50th)
    GDP (PPP)2022 estimate
    • Total
    Increase $3.776 trillion[13] (9th)
    • Per capita
    Increase $55,862[13] (26th)
    GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
    • Total
    Increase $3.198 trillion[13] (6th)
    • Per capita
    Increase $47,318[13] (22nd)
    Gini (2019)Negative increase 36.6[14]
    HDI (2021)Increase 0.929[15]
    very high · 18th
    CurrencyPound sterling[f] (GBP)
    Time zoneUTC+0 (Greenwich Mean Time, WET)
    • Summer (DST)
    UTC+1 (British Summer Time, WEST)
    Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
    yyyy-mm-dd (AD)
    Driving sideleft[h]
    Calling code+44[i]
    ISO 3166 codeGB
    Internet TLD.uk[j]

    The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,

    continental mainland.[17] It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.[18] The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands within the British Isles.[19] Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland; otherwise, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea
    . The total area of the United Kingdom is 242,495 square kilometres (93,628 sq mi), with an estimated 2023 population of over 68 million people.

    The United Kingdom has evolved from a series of annexations, unions and separations of constituent countries over several hundred years. The

    British government is responsible for their defence and international representation.[20] There are also 14 British Overseas Territories,[21] the last remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's landmass and population, and was the largest empire in history. A part of the core Anglophonic world, British influence can be observed in the language, culture, legal and political systems of many of its former colonies.[22][23]

    The United Kingdom is a

    since its first session in 1946.

    The United Kingdom is a member of the

    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The UK is also considered a part of the "Big Four", or G4, an unofficial group of four European nations.[39] It was a member state of the European Communities (EC) and its successor, the European Union (EU), from its accession in 1973 until its withdrawal in 2020

    Etymology and terminology

    In 43 AD, Britannia referred to the Roman province that encompassed modern day England and Wales. Great Britain encompassed the whole island, taking in the land north of the River Forth known to the Romans as Caledonia in modern Scotland (i.e. "greater" Britain).[40] In the Middle Ages, the name "Britain" was also applied to a small part of France now known as Brittany. As a result, Great Britain (likely from the French "Grande Bretagne") came into use to refer specifically to the island, with Brittany often referred to as "Little Britain".[41] However, that name had no official significance until 1707, when the island's kingdoms of England and Scotland were united as the Kingdom of Great Britain.[42]

    The Acts of Union 1707 declared that the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain".[n][43] The term "United Kingdom" has occasionally been used as a description for the former Kingdom of Great Britain, although its official name from 1707 to 1800 was simply "Great Britain".[44] The Acts of Union 1800 united the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following the partition of Ireland and the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland within the United Kingdom, the name was changed to the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".[45]

    Although the United Kingdom is a sovereign country, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also widely referred to as countries.

    NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom refer to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as "regions".[47] Northern Ireland is also referred to as a "province".[48] With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences".[49]

    The term "Great Britain" conventionally refers to the island of Great Britain, or politically to England, Scotland and Wales in combination.[50] It is sometimes used as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom as a whole.[51] The word England is occasionally used incorrectly to refer to the United Kingdom as a whole, a mistake principally made by people from outside the UK.[52]


    Permanent Committee on Geographical Names recognises "United Kingdom", "UK" and "U.K." as shortened and abbreviated geopolitical terms for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in its toponymic guidelines; it does not list "Britain" but notes that "it is only the one specific nominal term 'Great Britain' which invariably excludes Northern Ireland".[57] The BBC historically preferred to use "Britain" as shorthand only for Great Britain, though the present style guide does not take a position except that "Great Britain" excludes Northern Ireland.[58]

    The adjective "British" is commonly used to refer to matters relating to the United Kingdom and is used in law to refer to United Kingdom citizenship and matters to do with nationality.[59] People of the United Kingdom use several different terms to describe their national identity and may identify themselves as being British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, or Irish;[60] or as having a combination of different national identities.[61] The official designation for a citizen of the United Kingdom is "British citizen".[57]


    Prior to the Treaty of Union

    Stonehenge in Wiltshire is a ring of stones, each about 4 m (13 ft) high, 2 m (7 ft) wide and 25 tonnes
    , erected 2400–2200 BC.

    Settlement by

    Photograph of the Baths showing a rectangular area of greenish water surrounded by yellow stone buildings with pillars. In the background is the tower of the abbey.
    The Roman Baths in Bath, Somerset, are a well-preserved thermae from Roman Britain


    region settled by the Anglo-Saxons became unified as the Kingdom of England in the 10th century.[65] Meanwhile, Gaelic-speakers in north-west Britain (with connections to the north-east of Ireland and traditionally supposed to have migrated from there in the 5th century)[66] united with the Picts to create the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century.[67]

    In 1066, the

    conquest of Wales and made unsuccessful attempts to annex Scotland. Asserting its independence in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, Scotland maintained its independence thereafter, albeit in near-constant conflict with England

    The English monarchs, through inheritance of substantial territories in France and claims to the French crown, were also heavily involved in conflicts in France, most notably the Hundred Years' War, while the Kings of Scots were in an alliance with the French during this period.[70]

    fully incorporated into the Kingdom of England,[72] and Ireland was constituted as a kingdom in personal union with the English crown.[73] In what was to become Northern Ireland, the lands of the independent Catholic Gaelic nobility were confiscated and given to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.[74]

    The English Reformation ushered in political, constitutional, social and cultural change in the 16th century. Moreover, it defined a national identity for England and slowly, but profoundly, changed people's religious beliefs and established the Church of England.[75]

    In 1603, the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland were united in a

    James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political, legal, and religious institutions.[76]

    In the mid-17th century, all three kingdoms

    Although the

    overseas colonies, particularly in North America and the Caribbean.[79]

    Though previous attempts at uniting the two kingdoms within Great Britain in 1606, 1667, and 1689 had proved unsuccessful, the attempt initiated in 1705 led to the Treaty of Union of 1706 being agreed and ratified by both parliaments.

    Kingdom of Great Britain

    On 1 May 1707, the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed, the result of Acts of Union 1707 being passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the 1706 Treaty of Union and so unite the two kingdoms.[80]

    In the 18th century, cabinet government developed under

    Scottish Highlanders were brutally suppressed. The British colonies in North America that broke away from Britain in the American War of Independence became the United States of America, recognised by Britain in 1783. British imperial ambition turned towards Asia, particularly to India.[81]

    Britain played a leading part in the

    slave ships transported nearly 3.3 million slaves from Africa.[82] The slaves were taken to work on plantations in British possessions, principally in the Caribbean but also North America.[83] Slavery coupled with the Caribbean sugar industry had a significant role in strengthening and developing the British economy in the 18th century.[84] However, with pressure from the abolitionism movement, Parliament banned the trade in 1807, banned slavery in the British Empire in 1833, and Britain took a role in the movement to abolish slavery worldwide through the blockade of Africa and pressing other nations to end their trade with a series of treaties.[85]

    United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

    The term "United Kingdom" became official in 1801 when the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland each passed an

    Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[86]

    HMS Victory was Lord Nelson's flagship at the victory at the Battle of Trafalgar
    , in 1805.

    After the defeat of France at the end of the

    controlled the economies of many regions, such as Asia and Latin America.[92]

    Political attitudes favoured

    suffragettes campaigned from before 1914 for women's right to vote.[96]

    World wars and partition of Ireland

    Wreaths are being laid during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph
    in Whitehall, London

    Britain was one of the principal

    First World War (1914–1918). Alongside their French, Russian and (after 1917) American counterparts,[97] British armed forces were engaged across much of the British Empire and in several regions of Europe, particularly on the Western Front.[98] The high fatalities of trench warfare caused the loss of much of a generation of men, with lasting social effects in the nation and a great disruption in the social order. After the war, Britain became a permanent member of the Executive Council of the League of Nations and received a mandate over a number of former German and Ottoman colonies. The British Empire reached its greatest extent, covering a fifth of the world's land surface and a quarter of its population.[99] Britain had suffered 2.5 million casualties and finished the war with a huge national debt.[98] The consequences of the war persuaded the government to expand the right to vote in national and local elections with the Representation of the People Act 1918.[98]

    By the mid-1920s, most of the British population could listen to

    General Strike of 1926. Britain had still not recovered from the effects of the First World War when the Great Depression (1929–1932) occurred. This led to considerable unemployment and hardship in the old industrial areas, as well as political and social unrest in the 1930s, with rising membership in communist and socialist parties. A coalition government was formed in 1931.[105]

    Spitfire and Hurricane as flown in the Battle of Britain
    during World War II

    Nonetheless, "Britain was a very wealthy country, formidable in arms, ruthless in pursuit of its interests and sitting at the heart of a global production system."

    Second World War by declaring war on Germany in 1939. Winston Churchill became prime minister and head of a coalition government in 1940. Despite the defeat of its European allies in the first year of the war, Britain and its Empire continued the war against Germany. Churchill engaged industry, scientists and engineers to advise and support the government and the military in the prosecution of the war effort.[106]

    In 1940, the

    liberation of Europe, achieved with its allies the United States, the Soviet Union and other Allied countries. The British Army led the Burma campaign against Japan, and the British Pacific Fleet fought Japan at sea. British scientists contributed to the Manhattan Project to design a nuclear weapon,[107] which led to the surrender of Japan

    Postwar 20th century

    During the Second World War, the UK was one of the

    IMF, World Bank and NATO.[109] The war left the UK severely weakened and financially dependent on the Marshall Plan,[110] but it was spared the total war that devastated eastern Europe.[111]

    In the immediate post-war years, the

    decolonisation was unavoidable. Independence was granted to India and Pakistan in 1947.[114] Over the next three decades, most colonies of the British Empire gained their independence, with all those that sought independence supported by the UK, during both the transition period and afterwards. Many became members of the Commonwealth of Nations.[115]

    The UK was the third country to develop

    Commonwealth countries. In the following decades, the UK became a more multi-ethnic society than before.[118] Despite rising living standards in the late 1950s and 1960s, the UK's economic performance was less successful than many of its main competitors such as France, West Germany
    and Japan.

    Leaders of EU states in 2007. The UK entered the EEC in 1973. In a 1975 referendum 67% voted to stay in it;[119] in 2016 52% voted to leave the EU.[120]

    In the decades-long process of European integration, the UK was a founding member of the alliance called the Western European Union, established with the London and Paris Conferences in 1954. In 1960 the UK was one of the seven founding members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), but in 1973 it left to join the European Communities (EC). When the EC became the European Union (EU) in 1992, the UK was one of the 12 founding member states. The Treaty of Lisbon, signed in 2007, forms the constitutional basis of the European Union since then.

    From the late 1960s, Northern Ireland suffered communal and paramilitary violence (sometimes affecting other parts of the UK) conventionally known as

    Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998.[121]

    Following a period of widespread economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the Conservative government of the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher initiated a radical policy of monetarism, deregulation, particularly of the financial sector (for example, the Big Bang in 1986) and labour markets, the sale of state-owned companies (privatisation), and the withdrawal of subsidies to others.[122]

    In 1982, Argentina invaded the British territories of South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. The occupation provoked a military response from the United Kingdom leading to the Falklands War which lasted for 10 weeks. Argentine forces were defeated and surrendered to British troops. The inhabitants of the islands are predominantly descendants of British settlers, and strongly favour British sovereignty, as shown by a 2013 referendum. From 1984, the UK economy was helped by the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues.[123]

    Around the end of the 20th century, there were major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.[124] The statutory incorporation followed acceptance of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK remained a Great Power with global diplomatic and military influence and a leading role in the United Nations and NATO.[125]

    21st century

    2 billion doses of Oxford University-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were sent to more than 170 countries by November 2021.[126]

    The UK broadly supported the United States' approach to the "war on terror" in the early years of the 21st century.[127] Controversy surrounded some of Britain's overseas military deployments, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.[128]


    2008 global financial crisis severely affected the UK economy. The Cameron–Clegg coalition government of 2010 introduced austerity measures intended to tackle the substantial public deficits which resulted.[129] The devolved Scottish Government and UK Government agreed for a referendum to be held on Scottish independence in 2014.[130] This referendum resulted in the electorate in Scotland voting by 55.3 to 44.7% for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.[131]

    In 2016, 51.9 per cent of voters in the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.[132] The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020 and completed its withdrawal in full at the end of that year.[133]


    Oxford University and AstraZeneca which allowed them to roll-out the vaccine nationwide quickly.[137][138]

    On 8 September 2022,


    Satellite image
    of the United Kingdom

    The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 244,820 square kilometres (94,530 sq mi). The country occupies the major part of the British Isles[141] archipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and some smaller surrounding islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with the southeast coast coming within 22 miles (35 km) of the coast of northern France, from which it is separated by the English Channel.[142]

    In 1993 10 per cent of the UK was forested, 46 per cent used for pastures and 25 per cent cultivated for agriculture.

    Prime Meridian[144] in Washington, DC, in 1884, although due to more accurate modern measurement the meridian actually lies 100 metres to the east of the observatory.[145]

    The United Kingdom lies between latitudes 49° and 61° N, and longitudes 9° W and 2° E. Northern Ireland shares a 224-mile (360 km) land boundary with the Republic of Ireland.[142] The coastline of Great Britain is 11,073 miles (17,820 km) long.[146] It is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel, which at 31 miles (50 km) (24 miles (38 km) underwater) is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.[147]

    The UK contains four terrestrial ecoregions:

    Caledon conifer forests.[148] The country had a 2019 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 1.65/10, ranking it 161th globally out of 172 countries.[149]


    Most of the United Kingdom has a temperate climate, with generally cool temperatures and plentiful rainfall all year round.

    subpolar oceanic climate (Cfc). Higher elevations in Scotland experience a continental subarctic climate (Dfc) and the mountains experience a tundra climate (ET).[151]

    The prevailing wind is from the southwest and bears frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean,[142] although the eastern parts are mostly sheltered from this wind. Since the majority of the rain falls over the western regions, the eastern parts are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters; especially in the west where winters are wet and even more so over high ground. Summers are warmest in the southeast of England and coolest in the north. Heavy snowfall can occur in winter and early spring on high ground, and occasionally settles to great depth away from the hills.[152]

    The average total annual sunshine in the United Kingdom is 1339.7 hours, which is just under 30% of the maximum possible.[153] The hours of sunshine vary from 1200 to about 1580 hours per year, and since 1996 the UK has been and still is receiving above the 1981 to 2010 average hours of sunshine.[154]

    United Kingdom is ranked 4 out of 180 countries in the

    net zero by 2050.[156]


    England accounts for just over half (53 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 130,395 square kilometres (50,350 sq mi).[157] Most of the country consists of lowland terrain,[143] with more upland and some mountainous terrain northwest of the Tees–Exe line; including the Lake District, the Pennines, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike (978 metres (3,209 ft)) in the Lake District.

    Derwent Water in the
    Skye is one of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides
    and part of the Scottish Highlands

    Scotland accounts for just under one-third (32 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 78,772 square kilometres (30,410 sq mi).[158] This includes nearly 800 islands,[159] predominantly west and north of the mainland; notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. Scotland is the most mountainous country in the UK and its topography is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault – a geological rock fracture – which traverses Scotland from Arran in the west to Stonehaven in the east.[160] The fault separates two distinctively different regions; namely the Highlands to the north and west and the Lowlands to the south and east. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous land, including Ben Nevis which at 1,345 metres (4,413 ft)[161] is the highest point in the British Isles.[162] Lowland areas – especially the narrow waist of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth known as the Central Belt – are flatter and home to most of the population including Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, and Edinburgh, its capital and political centre, although upland and mountainous terrain lies within the Southern Uplands.

    Wales accounts for less than one-tenth (9 per cent) of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres (8,020 sq mi).[163] Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the coastal cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa) which, at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft), is the highest peak in Wales.[143] Wales has over 2,704 kilometres (1,680 miles) of coastline.[146] Several islands lie off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in the north-west.

    Northern Ireland, separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea and North Channel, has an area of 14,160 square kilometres (5,470 sq mi) and is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh which, at 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi), is the largest lake in the British Isles by area.[164] The highest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains at 852 metres (2,795 ft).[143]

    Government and politics

    Constitutional principles


    constitutional conventions.[165] Nevertheless, the Supreme Court recognises a number of principles underlying the British constitution, such as parliamentary sovereignty, the rule of law, democracy, and upholding international law.[166]

    The Supreme Court also recognises that some acts of Parliament have special constitutional status, and are therefore part of the constitution.[167] These include Magna Carta, which in 1215 required the King to call a "common counsel" (now called Parliament) to represent people, to hold courts in a fixed place, to guarantee fair trials, to guarantee free movement of people, to free the church from the state, and to guarantee rights of "common" people to use the land.[168] (Most of Magna Carta is no longer in force; those principles it established that still exist are mostly protected by other enactments.) After the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Claim of Right Act 1689 cemented Parliament's position as the supreme law-making body, and said that the "election of members of Parliament ought to be free".

    In accordance with the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, the

    UK Parliament can carry out constitutional reform through acts of Parliament, and thus has the political power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. No sitting parliament can pass laws that future parliaments cannot change.[169]

    The sovereign

    The United Kingdom is a

    ministers of the Crown responsible to Parliament and thence to the electorate. Nevertheless, in the performance of executive duties, the monarch has "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn".[170] In addition, the monarch has a number of reserve powers at his disposal in order to uphold responsible government and prevent constitutional crises.[171] These reserve powers are particularly relevant to the appointment of a prime minister, preventing unconstitutional use of the British Armed Forces, the prorogation and dissolution of Parliament, the enactment of legislation, and conferring state honours.[172][173][174][175][176][177]


    The UK is a

    parliamentary democracy operating under the Westminster system, otherwise known as a "democratic parliamentary monarchy".[178] The Parliament of the United Kingdom is sovereign.[179] It is made up of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Crown.[180] The main business of parliament takes place in the two houses,[180] but royal assent is required for a bill to become an act of parliament (law).[181]


    general elections (elections to the House of Commons), the UK is divided into 650 constituencies, each of which is represented by a member of Parliament (MP).[182] MPs hold office for up to five years and are always up for re-election in general elections.[182] The Conservative Party, Labour Party and Scottish National Party are, respectively, the current first, second and third largest parties (by number of MPs) in the House of Commons.[183]

    Prime minister


    political party with the most seats in the House of Commons[191] and hold office by virtue of their ability to command the confidence of the House of Commons.[189]

    The prime minister not only has statutory functions (alongside other ministers),[192] but is the monarch's principal adviser[193] and it is for them to advise the monarch on the exercise of the royal prerogative in relation to government.[189] In particular, the prime minister recommends the appointment of ministers[189] and chairs the Cabinet.[194]

    Administrative divisions

    The geographical division of the United Kingdom into counties or shires began in England and Scotland in the early Middle Ages, and was completed throughout Great Britain and Ireland by the early Modern Period.[195] Administrative arrangements were developed separately in each country of the United Kingdom, with origins that often predated the formation of the United Kingdom. Modern local government by elected councils, partly based on the ancient counties, was established by separate Acts of Parliament: in England and Wales in 1888, Scotland in 1889 and Ireland in 1898, meaning there is no consistent system of administrative or geographic demarcation across the UK.[196] Until the 19th century there was little change to those arrangements, but there has since been a constant evolution of role and function.[197]

    The organisation of

    elected mayors, elections for which first took place in May 2017.[201] Below the regional tier, some parts of England have county councils and district councils, and others have unitary authorities, while London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London. Councillors are elected by the first-past-the-post system in single-member wards or by the multi-member plurality system in multi-member wards.[202]

    For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 council areas with a wide variation in both size and population. The cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are separate council areas, as is the Highland Council, which includes a third of Scotland's area but only just over 200,000 people. Local councils are made up of elected councillors, of whom there are 1,223;[203] they are paid a part-time salary. Elections are conducted by single transferable vote in multi-member wards that elect either three or four councillors. Each council elects a Provost, or Convenor, to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area.

    Local government in Wales consists of 22 unitary authorities, each led by a leader and cabinet elected by the council itself. These include the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, which are unitary authorities in their own right.[204] Elections are held every four years under the first-past-the-post system.[204]

    Since 1973, local government in Northern Ireland has been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote. Their powers are limited to services such as waste collection, dog control, and maintaining parks and cemeteries.[205] In 2008 the executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils and replace the present system.[206]

    Devolved governments

    Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own

    unicameral legislature. England, the largest country of the United Kingdom, has no devolved executive or legislature and is administered and legislated for directly by the UK's government and parliament on all issues. This situation has given rise to the so-called West Lothian question, which concerns the fact that members of parliament from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can vote, sometimes decisively,[207] on matters that affect only England.[208] The 2013 McKay Commission on this recommended that laws affecting only England should need support from a majority of English members of parliament.[209]


    reserved to the UK Parliament, including education, healthcare, Scots law and local government.[210] Their power over economic issues is significantly constrained by an act of the UK parliament passed in 2020.[218]


    Acts of Senedd Cymru


    North-South Ministerial Council, where the Northern Ireland Executive cooperates and develops joint and shared policies with the Government of Ireland. The British and Irish governments co-operate on non-devolved matters affecting Northern Ireland through the British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which assumes the responsibilities of the Northern Ireland administration in the event of its non-operation.[citation needed

    The UK does not have a

    codified constitution and constitutional matters are not among the powers devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Under the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, the UK Parliament could, in theory, therefore, abolish the Scottish Parliament, Senedd or Northern Ireland Assembly.[222] Indeed, in 1972, the UK Parliament unilaterally prorogued the Parliament of Northern Ireland, setting a precedent relevant to contemporary devolved institutions.[223] In practice, it would be politically difficult for the UK Parliament to abolish devolution to the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd, given the political entrenchment created by referendum decisions.[224] The political constraints placed upon the UK Parliament's power to interfere with devolution in Northern Ireland are even greater than in relation to Scotland and Wales, given that devolution in Northern Ireland rests upon an international agreement with the Government of Ireland.[225] The UK Parliament restricts the three devolved parliaments' legislative competence in economic areas through an Act passed in 2020.[218]


    Gibraltar: The Mediterranean Sea from the Rock of Gibraltar

    The United Kingdom, the 14 British Overseas Territories[21] and the three Crown Dependencies[228] form 'one undivided Realm'.[229][230] All parts of the realm are under the sovereignty of the British Crown, but the Territories and Dependencies are not part of the UK. This is distinct from the status of Commonwealth realms, who have separate monarchies, but share the same monarch.[230]

    The 14 British Overseas Territories are remnants of the British Empire:

    1995,[237] Gibraltar in 2002[238] and the Falkland Islands in 2013).[239]

    The Crown Dependencies are possessions of

    Privy Council or, in the case of the Isle of Man, in certain circumstances the Lieutenant-Governor).[242] Since 2005 each Crown dependency has had a Chief Minister as its head of government.[243]

    Law and criminal justice

    The United Kingdom does not have a single legal system as Article 19 of the

    systems of law: English law, Northern Ireland law and Scots law. A new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom came into being in October 2009 to replace the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.[245] The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, including the same members as the Supreme Court, is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the British Overseas Territories and the Crown Dependencies.[246]

    Both English law, which applies in England and Wales, and

    Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land for both criminal and civil appeal cases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and any decision it makes is binding on every other court in the same jurisdiction, often having a persuasive effect in other jurisdictions.[249]
    Scots law is a hybrid system based on both common-law and
    Sheriff courts deal with most civil and criminal cases including conducting criminal trials with a jury, known as sheriff solemn court, or with a sheriff and no jury, known as sheriff summary Court.[253] The Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal.[254]

    Crime in England and Wales increased in the period between 1981 and 1995, though since that peak there has been an overall fall of 66 per cent in recorded crime from 1995 to 2015,

    prison population of England and Wales has increased to 86,000, giving England and Wales the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe at 148 per 100,000.[256] His Majesty's Prison Service, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, manages most of the prisons within England and Wales. The murder rate in England and Wales has stabilised in the first half of the 2010s with a murder rate around 1 per 100,000 which is half the peak in 2002 and similar to the rate in the 1980s[257] Crime in Scotland fell slightly in 2014–2015 to its lowest level in 39 years with 59 killings for a murder rate of 1.1 per 100,000. Scotland's prisons are overcrowded but the prison population is shrinking.[258]

    Foreign relations

    UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets US President Joe Biden
    at the 2022 G-20 Bali Summit.

    The UK is a

    British-Irish Council. Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations, foreign investments, official development assistance and military engagements.[261] Canada, Australia and New Zealand, all of which are former colonies of the British Empire which share King Charles as their head of state, are the most favourably viewed countries in the world by British people.[262]


    The British armed forces played a key role in establishing the

    influence world events. Since the end of the British Empire, the UK has remained a major military power. Following the end of the Cold War, defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" will be undertaken as part of a coalition.[266]

    According to sources which include the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the UK has either the fourth- or the fifth-highest military expenditure. Total defence spending amounts to 2.0 per cent of national GDP.[267]



    urban economy in Europe in 2018.[268]

    The United Kingdom uses the

    Lloyd’s of London is the world's largest insurance and reinsurance market and is located in London, UK.[274]

    The UK has a partially regulated market economy.[275] Based on market exchange rates, the UK is today the sixth-largest economy in the world and the second-largest in Europe. HM Treasury, led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is responsible for developing and executing the government's public finance policy and economic policy. The Bank of England is the UK's central bank and is responsible for issuing notes and coins in the nation's currency, the pound sterling. Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland retain the right to issue their own notes, subject to retaining enough Bank of England notes in reserve to cover their issue.

    The service sector made up around 80% of the UK's GVA in 2021.[276] London is one of the world's largest financial centres, ranking second in the world in the Global Financial Centres Index in 2022. London also has the largest city GDP in Europe.[277] Edinburgh ranks 17th in the world, and sixth in Western Europe in the Global Financial Centres Index in 2020.[278] Tourism is very important to the British economy; London was named as Europe’s most popular destination for 2022.[279] The creative industries accounted for 5.9% of the UK's GVA in 2019, having grown by 43.6% in real terms from 2010.[280] Creative industries contributed more than £111bn to the UK economy in 2018, growth in the sector is more than five times larger than growth across the UK economy as a whole as reported in 2018.[281] WPP plc, the world's biggest advertising company, is also based in the UK.

    Following the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union, the functioning of the UK internal economic market is enshrined by the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 which ensures trade in goods and services continues without internal barriers across the four countries of the United Kingdom.[282]

    The Industrial Revolution started in Britain with an initial concentration on the textile industry,[283] followed by other heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining and steelmaking.[284] British merchants, shippers and bankers developed overwhelming advantage over those of other nations allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century.[285] Ship building continues, between September 2021 and the end of 2022, the UK Government announced £4.34 billion in shipbuilding contracts to UK companies.[286] The UK also produces luxury boats from Princess, Sunseeker and Fairline. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy but accounted for only 9.2 per cent of national output in 2022.[287]

    The automotive industry employs around 800,000 people, with a turnover in 2022 of £67 billion, generating £27 billion of exports (10% of the UK's total export of goods). In 2022, the UK produced around 775,000 passenger vehicles and 101,600 commercial vehicles, including luxury cars such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Range Rover. The UK is a major centre for engine manufacturing: in 2021 around 1.6 million engines were produced. The UK motorsport industry employs more than 40,000 people, comprises around 4,300 companies and has an annual turnover of around £10 billion.[288] 7 of the 10 Formula One teams are based in the UK, with their technology being used in supercars and hypercars from McLaren, Aston Martin and Lotus.

    The aerospace industry of the UK is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry in the world depending upon the method of measurement and has an annual turnover of around £30 billion.[289]

    QinetiQ and Martin-Baker
    - the world leading manufacturer of ejection seats.

    The UK space industry was worth £16.5bn in 2019/20 and employed 47,000 people. Since 2012, the number of space organisations has grown on average nearly 21% per year, with 1,293 organisations reported in 2021.[295] The UK Space Agency has stated in 2023 that it is investing £1.6 billion in space related projects that could revolutionise our ability to journey deeper into space.[296]

    The agriculture industry is intensive, highly mechanised and efficient by European standards, producing about 60 per cent of food needs with less than 1.6 per cent of the labour force (535,000 workers).[297] Around two-thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one-third to arable crops. The UK retains a significant, though much reduced fishing industry. It is also rich in a variety of natural resources including coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica and an abundance of arable land.[298]

    In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic the UK Government introduced Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which paid up to 80% of an employees income to stay at home, if they were not able to work from home and they were not an essential worker. Measures caused the UK economy to shrink by 20.4 per cent between April and June compared to the first three months of that year.[299][300]

    The UK annual GDP output is estimated to have grown by 4.1% in 2022.[301] The UK Government debt was £2,436.7 billion at the end of Quarter 2 (Apr to June) 2022. The UK has the 2nd best debt-to-GDP ratio out of the G7 countries.[302]

    Science and technology

    theory of evolution by natural selection is the foundation of modern biological sciences[303]