The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,[nb 1] commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain (Template:IPAc-en), is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain (a term sometimes loosely applied to the whole state), the north-eastern 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.[nb 2] Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west.
The UK's form of government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system and its capital city is London. The current British monarch—since 6 February 1952—is Queen Elizabeth II. The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The latter three have devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capital cities, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are Crown dependencies and are not part of the UK. The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 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 legal systems of many of its former colonies.
The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest by purchasing power parity. 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 its military expenditure ranks fourth in the world.
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).
The 2008 global financial crisis severely affected by the UK economy. The coalition government while elected between 2010 and 2012, introduced austerity measures that take in substantial deficits which resulted. In 2014, the Scottish government held a referendum on Scottish independence, with 55.3 per cent of voters rejecting the independence proposal and opting to remain within the United Kingdom. In 2016, 51.9 per cent of the UK voters voted to leave the United Kingdom. The legal process of leaving the EU began on 29 March 2017, with the UK's invocation of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, formally notifying the EU of the UK's intention to leave. The negotiations will last two years while the UK remains a full member of the EU at that time.
The Industrial Revolution started in the UK with an initial concentration on the textile industry, followed by other heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining and steelmaking. British merchants, shippers and bankers developed overwhelming advantage over those of other nations allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. As other nations industrialised, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its competitive advantage and heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy but accounted for only 16.7 per cent of national output in 2003.
The automotive industry employs around 800,000 people, with a turnover in 2015 of £70 billion, generating £34.6 billion of exports (11.8 per cent of the UK's total export goods). In 2015, the UK produced around 1.6 million passenger vehicles and 94,500 commercial vehicles. The UK is a major centre for engine manufacturing: in 2015 around 2.4 million engines were produced. The UK motorsport industry employs around 41,000 people, comprises around 4,500 companies and has an annual turnover of around £6 billion.
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. The wings for the Airbus A380 and the A350 XWB are designed and manufactured at Airbus UK's Broughton facility, whilst over a quarter of the value of the Boeing 787 comes from UK manufacturers including Eaton, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty and Rolls-Royce.
BAE Systems plays a critical role in some of the world's biggest defence aerospace projects. In the UK, the company makes large sections of the Typhoon Eurofighter and assembles the aircraft for the Royal Air Force. It is also a principal subcontractor on the F35 Joint Strike Fighter – the world's largest single defence project – for which it designs and manufactures a range of components. It also manufactures the Hawk, the world's most successful jet training aircraft. Airbus UK also manufactures the wings for the A400 m military transporter. Rolls-Royce is the world's second-largest aero-engine manufacturer. Its engines power more than 30 types of commercial aircraft and it has more than 30,000 engines in service in the civil and defence sectors.
The space industry was worth $9.1 billion in 2011 and employed 29,000 people. It is growing at the rate of 7.5 per cent annually, according to the umbrella organisation, the UK Space Agency. In 2013, the British government pledged $60m to the Skylon project, the investment will provide support to the crucial stage to allow the full scale project of the SABRE to be built.
A radial road network totals Template:Convert of main roads, Template:Convert of motorways and Template:Convert of paved roads. The M25, encircling London, is the largest and busiest bypass in the world. In 2009 there were a total of 34 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain.
The UK has a railway network of Template:Convert in Great Britain and Template:Convert in Northern Ireland. Railways in Northern Ireland are operated by NI Railways, a subsidiary of state-owned Translink. In Great Britain, the British Rail network was privatised between 1994 and 1997, which was followed by a rapid rise in passenger numbers following years of decline, although the factors behind this are disputed. The UK was ranked eighth among national European rail systems in the 2017 European Railway Performance Index assessing intensity of use, quality of service and safety. Network Rail owns and manages most of the fixed assets (tracks, signals etc.). About 20 privately owned Train Operating Companies operate passenger trains, which carried 1.68 billion passengers in 2015. There are also some 1,000 freight trains in daily operation.Template:When The British Government is to spend £30 billion on a new high-speed railway line, HS2, to be operational by 2026. Crossrail, under construction in London, is Europe's largest construction project with a £15 billion projected cost.
In the year from October 2009 to September 2010 UK airports handled a total of 211.4 million passengers. In that period the three largest airports were London Heathrow Airport (65.6 million passengers), Gatwick Airport (31.5 million passengers) and London Stansted Airport (18.9 million passengers). London Heathrow Airport, located Template:Convert west of the capital, has the most international passenger traffic of any airport in the world and is the hub for the UK flag carrier British Airways, as well as Virgin Atlantic.
The BBC, founded in 1922 is the UK's publicly funded radio, television and Internet broadcasting corporation, and is the oldest and largest broadcaster in the world. It operates numerous television and radio stations in the UK and abroad and its domestic services are funded by the television licence. Other major players in the UK media include ITV plc, which operates 11 of the 15 regional television broadcasters that make up the ITV Network, and News Corporation, which owns a number of national newspapers through News International such as the most popular tabloid The Sun and the longest-established daily "broadsheet" The Times, as well as holding a large stake in satellite broadcaster British Sky Broadcasting. London dominates the media sector in the UK: national newspapers and television and radio are largely based there, although Manchester is also a significant national media centre. Edinburgh and Glasgow, and Cardiff, are important centres of newspaper and broadcasting production in Scotland and Wales respectively. The UK publishing sector, including books, directories and databases, journals, magazines and business media, newspapers and news agencies, has a combined turnover of around £20 billion and employs around 167,000 people.
The 1908, 1948 and 2012 Summer Olympics have been held in London, in different Olympic stadiums respectively (White City, Wembley and London Olympic Stadium), together with the 1966 FIFA World Cup. A 2003 poll found that football is the most popular sport in the United Kingdom. England is recognised by FIFA as the birthplace of club football, and The Football Association is the oldest of its kind, with the rules of football first drafted in 1863 by Ebenezer Cobb Morley. Each of the Home Nations has its own football association, national team and league system. The English top division, the Premier League, is the most watched football league in the world. The first international football match was contested by England and Scotland on 30 November 1872. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland usually compete as separate countries in international competitions.
- East London
- East Midlands
- Luton Airport Parkway
- New Timothy
- North London
- South East England
- South London
- West London
- Ebbw Valley
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