OFFICIAL NAME: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: English
MONEY: Pound sterling
POPULATION ESTIMATE: 64.1 million
AREA MASS: 93,800 square miles (243,000 km2)
MAJOR RIVERS: Thames, Severn, Tyne
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state in Europe.
Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, the country includes the island of Great Britain—a term also applied loosely to refer to the whole country—the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another state (the Republic of Ireland). Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to its west and north, the North Sea to its east, and the English Channel to its south. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The UK has an area of 93,800 square miles (243,000 km2), making it the 80th-largest sovereign state in the world and the 11th-largest in Europe.
The United Kingdom is the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 64.1 million inhabitants. It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of governance. Its capital city is London, an important global city and financial center with the second-largest urban area in Europe. According to Eurostat, its metropolitan area is the largest in the European Union, with a population of about 14 million. The current monarch King Charles III ascended the throne on 8 September 2022 upon the death of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
The UK comprises four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The latter three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capitals, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Guernsey, Jersey, and the Isle of Man are not part of the United Kingdom, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defense and international representation.
The relationships among the countries of the United Kingdom have changed over time. The Kingdom of England annexed Wales under the Acts of Union of 1536 and 1543. A treaty between England and Scotland resulted in a unified Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707, which, in 1801, merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1922, five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the country, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[nb 6] The UK has fourteen Overseas Territories. These are the remnants of the British Empire, which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world’s land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in its former colonies’ language, culture, and legal systems.
The United Kingdom is a developed country with the world’s sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and tenth-largest by purchasing power parity. The country is considered to have a high-income economy and is categorized as very high in the Human Development Index, currently ranking 14th globally. It was the world’s first industrialized country and foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power with considerable international economic, cultural, military, scientific, and political influence. It is a recognized nuclear weapons state whose military expenditure ranks fifth or sixth globally. The UK has been a permanent United Nations Security Council member since its first session in 1946. It has been a member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Popular cities include London, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, and Manchester.