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Introduction United Kingdom
Great Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside the European Monetary Union for the time being. Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999.
Geography United Kingdom
Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France
Geographic coordinates:
54 00 N, 2 00 W
Map references:
total: 244,820 sq km
water: 3,230 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands
land: 241,590 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Oregon
Land boundaries:
total: 360 km
border countries: Ireland 360 km
12,429 km
Maritime claims:
continental shelf: as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries
exclusive fishing zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast
mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to rolling plains in east and southeast
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Fenland -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m
Natural resources:
coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land
Land use:
arable land: 26.41%
permanent crops: 0.18%
other: 73.41% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
1,080 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
winter windstorms; floods
Environment - current issues:
continues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target and move towards a domestic goal of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010); by 2005 the Government aims to reduce the amount of industrial and commercial waste disposed of in landfill sites to 85% of 1998 levels and to recycle or compost at least 25% of household waste, increasing to 33% by 2015; between 1998-99 and 1999-2000, household recycling increased from 8.8% to 10.3%
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note:
lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters
People United Kingdom
59,778,002 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 18.7% (male 5,732,385; female 5,443,900)
15-64 years: 65.5% (male 19,803,478; female 19,381,734)
65 years and over: 15.8% (male 3,931,463; female 5,485,042) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.21% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
11.34 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
10.3 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.06 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
5.45 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.99 years
female: 80.84 years (2002 est.)
male: 75.29 years
Total fertility rate:
1.73 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.11% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
20,800 (1999)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
450 (1999 est.)
noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)
adjective: British
Ethnic groups:
English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%
Anglican and Roman Catholic 40 million, Muslim 1.5 million, Presbyterian 800,000, Methodist 760,000, Sikh 500,000, Hindu 500,000, Jewish 350,000
English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland)
definition: age 15 and over has completed five or more years of schooling
total population: 99% (2000 est.)
male: NA%
female: NA%
Government United Kingdom
Country name:
conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
conventional short form: United Kingdom
abbreviation: UK
Government type:
constitutional monarchy
Administrative divisions:
England - 47 boroughs, 36 counties*, 29 London boroughs**, 12 cities and boroughs***, 10 districts****, 12 cities*****, 3 royal boroughs******; Barking and Dagenham**, Barnet**, Barnsley, Bath and North East Somerset****, Bedfordshire*, Bexley**, Birmingham***, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bracknell Forest, Bradford***, Brent**, Brighton and Hove, City of Bristol*****, Bromley**, Buckinghamshire*, Bury, Calderdale, Cambridgeshire*, Camden**, Cheshire*, Cornwall*, Coventry***, Croydon**, Cumbria*, Darlington, Derby*****, Derbyshire*, Devon*, Doncaster, Dorset*, Dudley, Durham*, Ealing**, East Riding of Yorkshire****, East Sussex*, Enfield**, Essex*, Gateshead, Gloucestershire*, Greenwich**, Hackney**, Halton, Hammersmith and Fulham**, Hampshire*, Haringey**, Harrow**, Hartlepool, Havering**, Herefordshire*, Hertfordshire*, Hillingdon**, Hounslow**, Isle of Wight*, Islington**, Kensington and Chelsea******, Kent*, City of Kingston upon Hull*****, Kingston upon Thames******, Kirklees, Knowsley, Lambeth**, Lancashire*, Leeds***, Leicester*****, Leicestershire*, Lewisham**, Lincolnshire*, Liverpool***, City of London*****, Luton, Manchester***, Medway, Merton**, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Newcastle upon Tyne***, Newham**, Norfolk*, Northamptonshire*, North East Lincolnshire****, North Lincolnshire****, North Somerset****, North Tyneside, Northumberland*, North Yorkshire*, Nottingham*****, Nottinghamshire*, Oldham, Oxfordshire*, Peterborough*****, Plymouth*****, Poole, Portsmouth*****, Reading, Redbridge**, Redcar and Cleveland, Richmond upon Thames**, Rochdale, Rotherham, Rutland****, Salford***, Shropshire*, Sandwell, Sefton, Sheffield***, Slough, Solihull, Somerset*, Southampton*****, Southend-on-Sea, South Gloucestershire****, South Tyneside, Southwark**, Staffordshire*, St. Helens, Stockport, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent*****, Suffolk*, Sunderland***, Surrey*, Sutton**, Swindon, Tameside, Telford and Wrekin****, Thurrock, Torbay, Tower Hamlets**, Trafford, Wakefield***, Walsall, Waltham Forest**, Wandsworth**, Warrington, Warwickshire*, West Berkshire****, Westminster***, West Sussex*, Wigan, Wiltshire*, Windsor and Maidenhead******, Wirral, Wokingham****, Wolverhampton, Worcestershire*, York*****; Northern Ireland - 24 districts, 2 cities*, 6 counties**; Antrim, County Antrim**, Ards, Armagh, County Armagh**, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast*, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Coleraine, Cookstown, Craigavon, Down, County Down**, Dungannon, Fermanagh, County Fermanagh**, Larne, Limavady, Lisburn, County Londonderry**, Derry*, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Newtownabbey, North Down, Omagh, Strabane, County Tyrone**; Scotland - 32 council areas; Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, The Scottish Borders, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), West Lothian; Wales - 11 county boroughs, 9 counties*, 2 cities and counties**; Isle of Anglesey*, Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff**, Ceredigion*, Carmarthenshire*, Conwy, Denbighshire*, Flintshire*, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire*, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Pembrokeshire*, Powys*, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea**, Torfaen, The Vale of Glamorgan*, Wrexham
Dependent areas:
Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands
England has existed as a unified entity since the 10th century; the union between England and Wales was enacted under the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284; in the Act of Union of 1707, England and Scotland agreed to permanent union as Great Britain; the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was implemented in 1801, with the adoption of the name the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 formalized a partition of Ireland; six northern Irish counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland and the current name of the country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was adopted in 1927
National holiday:
Birthday of Queen ELIZABETH II, celebrated on the second Saturday in June (1926)
unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice
Legal system:
common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; no judicial review of Acts of Parliament; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations; British courts and legislation are increasingly subject to review by European Union courts
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); Heir Apparent Prince CHARLES (son of the queen, born 14 November 1948)
head of government: Prime Minister Anthony (Tony) BLAIR (since 2 May 1997)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or the leader of the majority coalition is usually the prime minister
Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament comprised of House of Lords (consists of approximately 500 life peers, 92 hereditary peers and 26 clergy) and House of Commons (659 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier)
elections: House of Lords - no elections (some proposals for further reform include elections); House of Commons - last held 7 June 2001 (next to be held by NA May 2006)
election results: House of Commons - percent of vote by party - Labor 42.1%, Conservative and Unionist 32.7%, Liberal Democrats 18.8%, other 6.4%; seats by party - Labor 412, Conservative and Unionist 166, Liberal Democrat 52, other 29; note - seating as of 15 February 2002: Labor 410, Conservative 164, Liberal Democrats 53, other 32
note: in 1998 elections were held for a Northern Ireland Parliament (because of unresolved disputes among existing parties, the transfer of power from London to Northern Ireland came only at the end of 1999 and was twice rescinded before reinstatement in November 2001); in 1999 there were elections for a new Scottish Parliament and a new Welsh Assembly
Judicial branch:
House of Lords (highest court of appeal; several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch for life); Supreme Courts of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (comprising the Courts of Appeal, the High Courts of Justice, and the Crown Courts); Scotland's Court of Session and Court of the Justiciary
Political parties and leaders:
Conservative and Unionist Party [Iain DUNCAN SMITH]; Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [Rev. Ian PAISLEY]; Labor Party [Anthony (Tony) BLAIR]; Liberal Democrats [Charles KENNEDY]; Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru) [Ieuan Wyn JONES]; Scottish National Party or SNP [John SWINNEY]; Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) [Gerry ADAMS]; Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland) [Mark DURKAN]; Ulster Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [David TRIMBLE]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Confederation of British Industry; National Farmers' Union; Trades Union Congress
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sir Christopher J. R. MEYER
chancery: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
FAX: [1] (202) 588-7870
consulate(s): Dallas, Denver, Miami, and Seattle
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
telephone: [1] (202) 588-6500
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador William S. FARISH
embassy: 24/31 Grosvenor Square, London, W1A1AE
mailing address: PSC 801, Box 40, FPO AE 09498-4040
telephone: [44] (0) 207499-9000 (switchboard)
FAX: [44] (0) 207 629-8288
consulate(s) general: Belfast, Edinburgh
Flag description:
blue with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland) and which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, as well as British overseas territories
Economy United Kingdom
Economy - overview:
The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quartet of trillion dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance. GDP growth slipped in 2001-02 as the global downturn, the high value of the pound, and the bursting of the "new economy" bubble hurt manufacturing and exports. Still, the economy is one of the strongest in Europe; inflation, interest rates, and unemployment remain low. The relatively good economic performance has complicated the BLAIR government's efforts to make a case for Britain to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The Prime Minister has pledged to hold a public referendum if membership meets Chancellor of the Exchequer BROWN's five economic "tests." Scheduled for assessment by mid-2003, the tests will determine whether joining EMU would have a positive effect on British investment, employment, and growth. Critics point out, however, that the economy is thriving outside of EMU, and they point to public opinion polls that continue to show a majority of Britons opposed to the single currency. Meantime, the government has been speeding up the improvement of education, transport, and health services, at a cost in higher taxes.
purchasing power parity - $1.52 trillion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $25,300 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 25%
services: 74% (2000)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 28% (1995)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
37 (1995)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.1% (2002 est.)
Labor force:
29.7 million (2001)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 1%, industry 25%, services 74% (1999)
Unemployment rate:
5.2% (2002 est.)
revenues: $565 billion
expenditures: $540 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY01)
machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, and other consumer goods
Industrial production growth rate:
-3.4% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
355.76 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 73%
hydro: 1%
other: 2% (2000)
nuclear: 23%
Electricity - consumption:
345.03 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
134 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
14.308 billion kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products:
cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish
$286.3 billion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco
Exports - partners:
EU 58.1% (Germany 12.5%, France 10.2%, Netherlands 7.7%, Ireland 7.3%), US 15.4% (2001)
$330.1 billion f.o.b. (2002)
Imports - commodities:
manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs
Imports - partners:
EU 51.7% (Germany 12.7%, France 8.6%, Netherlands 6.7%, Benelux 5.1%), US 13.2% (2001)
Debt - external:
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $4.5 billion (2000)
British pound (GBP)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
British pounds per US dollar - 0.6981 (January 2002), 0.6944 (2001), 0.6596 (2000), 0.6180 (1999), 0.6037 (1998), 0.6106 (1997)
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications United Kingdom
Telephones - main lines in use:
34.878 million (1997)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
43.5 million (yearend 1998)
Telephone system:
general assessment: technologically advanced domestic and international system
domestic: equal mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optic systems
international: 40 coaxial submarine cables; satellite earth stations - 10 Intelsat (7 Atlantic Ocean and 3 Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and 1 Eutelsat; at least 8 large international switching centers
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 219, FM 431, shortwave 3 (1998)
84.5 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
228 (plus 3,523 repeaters) (1995)
30.5 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
more than 400 (2000)
Internet users:
34.3 million (2002)
Transportation United Kingdom
total: 16,878 km
standard gauge: 16,536 km 1.435-m gauge (4,928 km electrified; 12,591 km double- or multiple-tracked)
broad gauge: 342 km 1.600-m gauge (190 km double-tracked)
note: all 1.600-m gauge track is in common carrier service in Northern Ireland (1996)
total: 371,603 km
paved: 371,603 km (including 3,303 km of expressways)
unpaved: 0 km (1998 est.)
3,200 km
crude oil (almost all insignificant) 933 km; petroleum products 2,993 km; natural gas 12,800 km
Ports and harbors:
Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Glasgow, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Peterhead, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Southampton, Sullom Voe, Teesport, Tyne
Merchant marine:
total: 212 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 4,308,232 GRT/4,171,757 DWT
ships by type: bulk 7, cargo 32, chemical tanker 13, combination ore/oil 1, container 53, liquefied gas 3, passenger 13, passenger/cargo 1, petroleum tanker 48, refrigerated cargo 4, roll on/roll off 26, short-sea passenger 10, specialized tanker 1
note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Bermuda 1, Cyprus 1, Denmark 21, Germany 6, Greece 3, Hong Kong 4, Italy 1, Monaco 4, Netherlands 1, Norway 9, Russia 1, South Africa 2, Sweden 11, Taiwan 2, United States 5 (2002 est.)
470 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 334
over 3,047 m: 8
2,438 to 3,047 m: 33
914 to 1,523 m: 83
under 914 m: 59 (2002)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 151
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 136
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 22
under 914 m: 112 (2002)
11 (2002)
Military United Kingdom
Military branches:
Army, Royal Navy (including Royal Marines), Royal Air Force
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 14,632,418 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 12,151,734 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$31.7 billion (2002)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
2.32% (2002)
Transnational Issues United Kingdom
Disputes - international:
Spain and UK are discussing "total shared sovereignty" over Gibraltar, subject to a constitutional referendum by Gibraltarians, who have largely expressed opposition to any form of cession to Spain; Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory) and its former inhabitants, who reside chiefly in Mauritius, but in 2001 were granted UK citizenship and the right to repatriation since eviction in 1965; Argentina claims the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark and Iceland; territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory) overlaps Argentine claim and partially overlaps Chilean claim; disputes with Iceland, Denmark, and Ireland over the Faroe Islands continental shelf boundary outside 200 NM
Illicit drugs:
gateway country for Latin American cocaine entering the European market; major consumer of synthetic drugs, producer of limited amounts of synthetic drugs and synthetic precursor chemicals; major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin; money-laundering center

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003