- Q1: Is the United Kingdom a "country"?
A1: Reliable sources support the view that the United Kingdom is a single country. This view is shared with other major reputable encyclopedias. There has been a long-standing consensus to describe the UK in this way.
- Q2: Why isn't Great Britain listed as one of the names of the United Kingdom, in the lead?
A2: See the article entitled "Terminology of the British Isles". Great Britain is the name of the largest island that the UK encompasses, and is not generally used in source material as the name of the country. Indeed, Britain 2001, the "official reference book" of the United Kingdom produced by the Office for National Statistics for "British diplomatic posts" says in its foreword:
The term 'Britain'
is sometimes used as a short way of expressing the full title of the country: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
(or more simply again, the United Kingdom
or the UK
). 'Great Britain' comprises England, Wales and Scotland only.
— Office for National Statistics, (2001), Britain 2001: The Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom, p. vii
This view is reiterated by the Prime Minister's Office, which states:
The United Kingdom
is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
. 'Great Britain', however, comprises only England, Scotland and Wales. Great Britain is the largest island of the British Isles.
— Countries within a country, number10.gov.uk
A report submitted to the United Nations Economic and Social Council by the Permanent Committe on Geographical Names and the Ordnance Survey states:
There has been a long-standing consensus not to include Great Britain in the lead as an interchangable name of the state.
- Q3: Isn't the United Kingdom a "collection of countries"?
A3: This is one of the most common questions raised on this talk page, but consistently, consensus goes against taking that approach. No major reputable source describes the UK in this way. However the history of the formation of the United Kingdom, supported by source material, highlights that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are "countries within a country". Please also refer to Q4.
- Q4: Are England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales countries?
A4: This is the most frequent question raised by visitors to this talk page, and the issue which generates the most debate. However, as a result of a lack of a formal British constitution, and owing to a convoluted history of the formation of the United Kingdom, a variety of terms exist which are used to refer to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Reliable and official sources support use of the word "countries":
As the UK has no written constitution in the usual sense, constitutional terminology is fraught with difficulties of interpretation and it is common usage nowadays to describe the four constituent parts of the UK (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) as “countries”.
— Scottish Parliament. "Your Scotland questions; Is Scotland a country?". scottish.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2008-08-01.
On Wikipedia, the term has broadly won preference amongst the editing community (note, however, that a country is not the same as a sovereign state). Also commonplace is the phrase "constituent country, or countries", when referring to the countries as elements of the UK. This phrase, however, is not an actual term; ie Scotland is not a 'constituent country' in itself, but is one of the constituent countries of the UK. The community endeavours to achieve an atmosphere of neutrality and (for the sake of stability) compromise on the various UK naming issues. See also Countries of the United Kingdom for more details about the terms that have been used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
- Q5: Why don't we refer to England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as nations, or by the term "Home Nations"?
A5: Widespread confusion surrounds the use of the word "nation". In standard British English, and in academic language, a nation is a social group of two or more people, and not a division of land. This is also the approach taken in the nation article, and across Wikipedia (for example, the English people and the Québécois are described as "nations", reflecting real world practice). The term Home Nations is generally used only in sporting contexts. It is not used in any major reputable sources outside of sport, and is not the approach taken by any other encyclopedia.
- Q6: Isn't Northern Ireland a province, and Wales a principality?
A6: This view is supported by some sources, but the current consensus amongst the editing community is aligned to a greater body of work which describes both Northern Ireland and Wales as countries. However, the terms are not all mutually exclusive: a country can also be a principality or a province, and these terms are mentioned throughout Wikipedia as alternative names in afternotes.
- Q7: Why isn't the flag of Northern Ireland shown in the article?
A7: Northern Ireland has not had its own unique, government sanctioned flag since its government was prorogued in 1972, and abolished in 1973 under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. During official events, the British government uses the Union Flag — the flag of the United Kingdom — and this is the only flag used by the government in Northern Ireland. The consensus is to reflect this in the article with a note.
- Q8: Why is 'British Isles' not mentioned in the introduction?
A8: Again, Wikipedia editors often disagree on the acceptability and suitability of various terms and phrases. This term is not favoured by a number of Wikipedia editors, and is currently not used in the introduction both to simplify the status quo, and also to discourage edit warring.