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 of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or 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 separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The United Kingdom 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 cities include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool.

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. 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 sixth-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% of the turnout being in favour of leaving the EU, which is expected to take place on 31 October 2019. 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

Title page from Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark

Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is a deeply personal travel narrative by the eighteenth-century British feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. It covers a wide range of topics, from sociological reflections on Scandinavia and its peoples to philosophical questions regarding identity. Published by Wollstonecraft's career-long publisher, Joseph Johnson, it was the last work issued during her lifetime. Wollstonecraft undertook the tour of the three countries in order to retrieve a stolen treasure ship for her lover, Gilbert Imlay, believing that the journey would restore their strained relationship. However, over the course of the three-month trip, she realized that Imlay had no intention of renewing the relationship. The twenty-five letters which constitute the text, drawn from her journal and from missives she sent to Imlay, reflect her anger and melancholy over his repeated betrayals. Using the rhetoric of the sublime, Wollstonecraft explores the relationship between the self and society in the text. Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark is both a travel narrative and an autobiographical memoir, and was Wollstonecraft's most popular book in the 1790s—it sold well and was reviewed positively by most critics. (more...)

Featured biography

Princess Louise in 1901

Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll was a member of the British Royal Family, the fourth daughter and sixth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Louise spent her early life under the roof of her parents, and when her father died in 1861, she took on the role as a companion to her mother. In 1871, Louise married John Campbell, Marquess of Lorne, and became the first daughter of a sovereign to marry a British subject since 1515. Although the marriage was initially happy, the couple drifted apart as a result of their childlessness and the Queen's constraints on their activities. In 1878, Louise's husband was appointed Governor General of Canada, and Louise spent five years as his consort. When Louise returned to Britain, she remained close to the Queen and undertook a number of public duties on her behalf. Following the Queen's death in 1901, she remained close to younger generations of the British royal family, and died in 1939 at the age of 91. Louise was a talented sculptress and an artist, and several of her sculptures remain today. (more...)

Did you know...

Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Featured picture

British Museum Great Court roof.jpg
Photo credit: Andrew Dunn

The Great Court of the British Museum was reopened in 2000 by Queen Elizabeth II after its redevelopment. The tesselated glass roof was designed by architects Foster and Partners and covers the entire court, making it the largest covered square in Europe.

In the news

Wikinews UK

23 September 2019 – Collapse of Thomas Cook
British travel company Thomas Cook enters compulsory liquidation, leaving 150,000 British holidaymakers stranded abroad and endangering 22,000 jobs worldwide. In response, the UK government and the Civil Aviation Authority launches Operation Matterhorn, the largest repatriation in the UK's peacetime history. (BBC) (Gov.uk)
22 September 2019 – Brexit
Dominic Raab says the UK Government will abide by the upcoming Supreme Court's ruling on the lawfulness of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament. When asked if the Government would prorogue Parliament again if it wins, he answers that he's "keen not to take levers off the table that weaken the position of the UK in Brussels". (BBC)
21 September 2019 – Brexit
Thousands of protestors march in Edinburgh, Scotland, against the upcoming departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union. The crowd is addressed by Members of the UK Parliament, and Members of the Scottish Parliament. Amongst the attendees is MSP Joanna Cherry QC, who is taking legal action against UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's recent prorogation of the UK Parliament. Cherry's action succeeded at Scotland's Court of Session, and is currently being reviewed by the UK Supreme Court. (BBC)
20 September 2019 –
A woman who previously accused late United States financier Jeffrey Epstein of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager says she was "trafficked" to Prince Andrew of the United Kingdom and was abused by him at a house in London. She calls him "an abuser" and "a participant". Prince Andrew denies the allegations. (BBC)
19 September 2019 – Brexit
The UK Supreme Court finishes hearing arguments on the lawfulness of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament. The court states it expects to rule next week. It is jointly considering appeals against two rulings. One, made by the High Court in London under English law, ruled prorogation was an entirely political decision over which courts had no jurisdiction. The other, made by the Court of Session in Edinburgh under Scots law, ruled Johnson acted unlawfully and the prorogation was a nullity that must be reversed. (BBC)
17 September 2019 – Brexit, 2019 British prorogation controversy
The UK Supreme Court begins considering the lawfulness of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of Parliament. It is jointly considering two appeals. One is against a ruling by the High Court under English law that the issue is solely a matter for the Prime Minister and one the courts do not have jurisdiction over. The other is against a ruling by the Court of Session under Scots law declaring the suspension unlawful and a nullity, and requiring Johnson to recall Parliament. (BBC)

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