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, officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but more commonly known as the UK or Britain, is a sovereign country lying 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 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 Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow 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. 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% 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).

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A coastal searchlight

British anti-invasion preparations of World War II entailed a large scale programme of military and civilian mobilisation in response to the threat of invasion by German armed forces in 1940 and 1941. The army needed to recover from the defeat of the British Expeditionary Force in France and one and a half million men were enrolled as part-time soldiers in the Home Guard. The rapid construction of field fortifications transformed much of Britain, especially southern England, into a prepared battlefield. Short of heavy weapons and equipment, the British had to make the best use of whatever was available. The German invasion plan, known to English speakers as Operation Sealion, was never taken beyond the preliminary assembly of forces stage. Today, very little remains of Britain's anti-invasion preparations. Only reinforced concrete structures such as pillboxes are common and even these have, until very recently, been unappreciated as historical monuments. (more...)

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...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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UK Roundabout 8 Cars.gif
Image credit: Mintguy & Fredrik

A diagram of movement within a roundabout in a country where traffic drives on the left. A roundabout is a type of road junction, or traffic calming device, at which traffic streams circularly around a central island after first yielding to the circulating traffic. Unlike with traffic circles, vehicles on a roundabout have priority over the entering vehicle, parking is not allowed and pedestrians are usually prohibited from the central island.

In the news

Wikinews UK

11 December 2018 –
In the United Kingdom, a man is tasered by police at the gates of Parliament. The area is placed on lockdown. (Daily Telegraph)
10 December 2018 – Brexit
Prime Minister Theresa May announces the deferral of the meaningful vote on the UK's negotiated withdrawal agreement from the European Union that was scheduled for tomorrow. (BBC)
4 December 2018 – Brexit negotiations
The Government of the United Kingdom is found to be in contempt of parliament for the first time in history. The motion, which passed by 311 to 293 votes in the House of Commons, was triggered by Theresa May's government failing to publish its legal advice on its Brexit withdrawal plan. (CNN)
30 November 2018 – Brexit negotiations
Sam Gyimah resigns as British Minister of State for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in protest to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit withdrawal deal. (The Guardian)
26 November 2018 – United Arab Emirates–United Kingdom relations
Matthew Hedges, the British student who was sentenced last week by a judge in the United Arab Emirates to life in prison on espionage charges, is pardoned and released by authorities. The UAE maintains that he was an MI6 agent. (The New York Times) (The Guardian)
24 November 2018 – Brexit negotiations
The Spanish government and the UK government reach an agreement on Gibraltar whereby Spain lifts its threat of boycotting Sunday's summit on Brexit. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says there are now "sufficient guarantees" that any future decisions regarding Gibraltar would be made with Spain. (The New York Times) (Reuters)

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