Portal:United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom Portal

Flag of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The UK is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world's longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution (England does not have any devolved power). The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, 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 the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.

The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9 per cent of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Featured article

Birds on Chew Valley Lake at Herriots Bridge

Chew Valley Lake is a large reservoir in the Chew Valley, Somerset, England, and the largest artificial lake in south-west England with an area of 1,200 acres (4.9 km²). The lake, which was created in the early 1950s and opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1956, provides much of the drinking water for the city of Bristol and surrounding area, taking its supply from the Mendip Hills. Some of the water from the lake is used to maintain the flow in the River Chew. Before the lake was flooded, archaeological investigations were carried out which showed evidence of occupation since Neolithic times and included Roman artefacts. The lake is also an important site for wildlife and has been dedicated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area. It is a national centre for birdwatching with over 260 species recorded, including some unusual sightings. The lake has a range of indigenous and migrant water birds throughout the year, and two dedicated nature trails have been created. The flora and fauna provide a variety of habitats and include some of the less common plants and insects. Some restricted use for recreational activities is permitted by the owners, including Dinghy sailing and fishing, primarily for trout. (continued...)

Featured biography

The Beatles are among the most influential popular music artists of modern times, initially affecting the culture of Britain and the U.S., the postwar baby boom generation, and then of the rest of the world, especially during the 1960s and early 1970s. Certainly they are the most successful, with global sales exceeding 1.3 billion albums. Their influences on popular culture extended far beyond their roles as recording artists, as they branched out into film and even semi-willingly became spokesmen for their generation. The members of the group were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr (Richard Starkey), all from Liverpool in England. The effect of the Beatles on Western culture (and by extension on the rest of the world) has been immeasurable. (more...)

Did you know...

Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Windsor Castle Upper Ward Quadrangle
Photo credit: Diliff

The quadrangle of Windsor Castle, one of the principal official residences of the British monarch. On the far left are the State Apartments, at the end of the quad are the Private Apartments, where Queen Elizabeth II resides on weekends, and on the right, the South Wing. Located at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, it is the largest inhabited castle in the world and, dating back to the time of William the Conqueror, the oldest in continuous occupation.

In the news

Wikinews UK

24 May 2019 – 2019 UK Conservative Party leadership election
United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May announces her resignation as leader of the Conservative Party, effective June 7. She will remain Prime Minister until a successor is elected. (The Guardian)
23 May 2019 – 2019 European Parliament election
European citizens in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands vote in the first day of 2019's European Parliament elections. (European Parliament)
22 May 2019 – Economy of the United Kingdom
British Steel Limited goes into compulsory liquidation after rescue talks between the British government and the company's owners, Greybull Capital, fail. Around 5,000 workers are employed by the company, 3,800 of whom are based in the UK. (BBC)
22 May 2019 – Chagos Archipelago sovereignty dispute
The United Nations General Assembly passes a non-binding resolution demanding the United Kingdom return control of the Chagos Archipelago to Mauritius. The Mauritians claim they were forced to give up the islands to the British in 1965 in exchange for independence. (BBC)
22 May 2019 –
Andrea Leadsom resigns as the United Kingdom's Leader of the House of Commons with immediate effect in response to Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of Brexit. Several other cabinet ministers are reportedly threatening to resign. (BBC)
20 May 2019 –
Whole Foods Market announces it will eliminate disposable plastic straws in July from its stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. (USA Today)

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