Talk:United Kingdom/Country, Kingdom or State Archive 2

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Country

The intro says where the UK is, but not what is is. Ordinarily I would just add something to say it's a country, but I know there have been disputes in the past. Did we agree that it was a country or are some people still objecting? DJ Clayworth 22:20, 4 May 2006 (UTC)

Uh oh, yes, please don't change it. We all agree it is a country and a (sovereign) state - it's just that some prefer one term over the other for the initial sentence. Some say that state is the more accurate and encyclopaedic term, while other say that country is the more common and encompassing term. Or something like that anyway.. The more stable solution is just to say where it is in the first paragraph, and go into some detail about what it is in the second paragraph. I think it's proved quite successful. -- zzuuzz (talk) 23:55, 4 May 2006 (UTC)
There are various terms that can describe the polity. Though I share your concerns, DJC (and I prefer the term "(sovereign) state"), I think Z. has summarised the situation well: excessive discussions occurred beforehand regarding this, yielding the status quo which has held up better than I expected. Alternatively, think of it this way ... what is the UK? It is, in the most basic sense, a united kingdom, and other things that follow in-text. ;) E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 00:37, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
We need to put something there. Otherwise all it says is it's "in Northwest Europe". For all our article tells us it could be a county, a superstate or just an area of land. Could we at least put "Kingdom". Surely no-one can argue with the accuracy of that. DJ Clayworth 05:18, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
Just have a read of (link archived, now at /Archive 1). I think the topic has been discussed enough to last a fair bit longer than 2 months! DJR (Talk) 00:53, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
We say in the second paragraph it's a 'unitary state'. If we can say it in the second paragraph is there any reason why we shouldn't say it in the first paragraph? DJ Clayworth 05:20, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm remiss to reopen prior debates; however, I think the current version is grudgingly acceptable yet agreeable and impartial. And one could argue that because there is already a succinct description of what the UK 'is' in the second paragraph, ("...is a constitutional monarchy and unitary state composed through a political union of the four constituent countries..."), it needn't be recapitulated in the first (which focuses on where it is). E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 07:21, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

In my opinion, it's a question of taste. Calling it a country is not inaccurate; this is illustrated by the fact that it is referred to as a country (at some point) by the World Book Encyclopedia, Encyclopædia Britannica, MSN Encarta, the Columbia Encyclopedia and the CIA World Factbook. All the descriptions you've mentioned are accurate as well, as is the current version. Rudjek

The problem is that both country and state will cause people to object; for me the objections to both terms are misguided, but a sufficient minorty of people seem to haev non-negotiable positions on this one. I agree that there could be a better compromise and I'd be willing to listent to suggeseted improvments; but for now the current intro has managed to last a long time and at least avoids conflict. --Robdurbar 15:38, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

Saying nothing because a minority of people disagree with all options is not a viable strategy. We should choose the least problematic. If you actually went to the UK and asked a hundred randomly chosen people whether the UK was a country, I would bet a large sum of money that not a single person would say 'no'. DJ Clayworth 15:53, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

Then - based on comments on this talk page - you'd be a poor man ;) --Robdurbar 16:47, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
Interestingly when I went back and examined the subpage with the original discussion on it I found only two people arguing against the use of 'country'. E Pluribus Anthony (Canadian) and FeirEiann (Irish, and sorry if I spelled that wrongly). I stand by my statement. DJ Clayworth 15:15, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
Interestingly, you glazed over the numerous instances here and there when I've acknowledged that the UK is many things – including a country – but, given its ambiguity in this instance, having that term usurp others that may be more appropriate is untenable. I defer to my prior comments. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 00:31, 11 May 2006 (UTC)
This is treading over old ground. As above, there's already an explication of what the UK is in the second paragraph. DJ C, you (as I) also commented during the prior discussion; since then, little has changed. While the term is in common usage, the concepts of 'country' and 'nation' are somewhat obscure ... so much so that some international relations compendia do not even bother to define the former. And there are many terms that can be used to describe the UK: polity, state, union, kingdom, realm, nation ... I see little reason to forego the current version, which IMO is the least problematic, because of a fixation with including just one arguably ambiguous term. And on this I can't comment further. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 16:11, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

The problem is that the MoS states that the first sentence should give the context of the article. The original compromise was to use both in the first sentence but the state part of it got moved to the first sentence of the second paragraph. josh (talk) 17:39, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

Arguably, the first sentence already provides context by expatiating the UK's name (and, stemming from that, what it is) and by later detailing where it is located. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 18:44, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
That's not context. You still don't know what the UK is. josh (talk) 19:16, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
No real argument, but that is your viewpoint. It is just as much a united kingdom of this and that (explicit and not) as it is a country, state, polity, or many other terms ... which are elaborated below. And the MoS is only a guide, not policy. I'm unsure how including upfront notation of the UK being a country and or state – above and beyond expansions that follow – will enhance one's understanding of the concept ... particularly if the former is ambiguous in this instance. Hell, even swap contents of the second paragraph and first for more ... context. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 19:20, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
This may be looking at things a bit too simplisticly, but what is the obsession with having to say "what the UK is"? There is a huge list of answers to that question, and people coming to a Wikipedia article about the UK are not going to be bothered about any or each one of them, especially given that half of them are synonyms. I really think we should concentrate on improving the real content of the article, and not waste time arguing over something that is, in the grand scheme of things, largely irrelevant. DJR (Talk) 19:40, 5 May 2006 (UTC)
I concur. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 21:43, 5 May 2006 (UTC)

Don't be ridiculous! How would people like it if the article article United States of America started "the USA is in North America...". Lets hear from the Brits here. Any Brits think that their country sorry their whatever is not a country? DJ Clayworth 15:03, 8 May 2006 (UTC)

Generally deference to prior comments aside, there are many ways to skin the cat. The lead for the USA article actually reads as follows: "The United States of America ... is a federal republic in North America." As I've suggested above, it might be possible to move details from the 2nd paragraph, 1st sentence into the 1st ... like so:
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, or the UK) is a constitutional monarchy and unitary state occupying part of the British Isles in northwestern Europe, with most of its territory and population on the island of Great Britain. It shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland and is otherwise surrounded by the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The United Kingdom, often referred to as "Britain", is a political union of the four constituent countries of England, Scotland and Wales on Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland (also known as the Home Nations). . . .
Thereby obviating other preferences for this and that. Beyond this, I've no more comment. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 15:21, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
I would have no problem with either of those wordings. However to say nothing, which is what the article currently does, is silly. But once again, let's hear from you Brits. Is the United Kingdom a country or not. Write your answers on this page. DJ Clayworth 15:35, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
The second wording is preferable as an introduction since it is more inclusive. The first just concentrates on the governance of the country and so isn't a good overall description. The first wording could be used as a second paragraph, though. Naomhain 16:02, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
This is unclear. Please note that the extract above is part-and-parcel: the revised 1st and 2nd paragraphs. I'm not proposing one or the other but as the text appears above replacing (prior) text. I've merely reorganised the (prior) contents. And I think it works. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 16:20, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
Ah; Sorry, I understand. In that case I still think they are round the wrong way. The union is a good and inclusive description of the UK, but that it is a unitary state (and still less that it is a monarchy) is not. I'd not change your wording but reorder it to say:
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, or the UK and often referred to as "Britain") is a political union of the four constituent countries of England, Scotland and Wales on Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland (also known as the Home Nations).
It is a constitutional monarchy and unitary state occupying part of the British Isles in northwestern Europe, with most of its territory and population on the island of Great Britain. It shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland and is otherwise surrounded by the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
How does that sound? Naomhain 16:28, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
There's only one proposal above, not more than that (as inferred by "either"). In any event, while we await word from the Brits, I as a Wikipedian who can edit just as well, will incorporate the above. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 15:39, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
You will find that militant separatists will deny that the UK is a country and instead demand use of the term "state" with its overtones of heavy centralised control and exclusion of common cultural heritage. Naomhain 15:28, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
I can't confirm or deny this sentiment; I was born and raised in an ex-colony ... so does this apply to me?  :) In any event, the above denies nothing and merely rearranges what's already there while providing more context. If there are no objections, I will integrate the above editions into the article. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 15:32, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
To be fair, we Brits shouldn't have any more say than anyone else on this one. In the end I think a description of the UK as a constitutional monarchy etc. is fine, though we do appear to have two intros one after the other at the moment (as indicated by the confusion above). --Robdurbar 17:57, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
It is reasonable to say that Brits are more knowledgable about how their country is referred to than others.
For the record I'm fine with 'country' 'state' 'unitary state' or 'kingdom', but the current situtation where we say nothing is ridiculous. Although it looks like someone has changed it, so let's leave it like that for now. DJ Clayworth 21:18, 8 May 2006 (UTC)
Passing by, I prefer E Pluribus Anthony's version above: the first paragraph introduces the UK and summarizes its location (including the Atlantic Ocean with its related waters, which aren't separate); the next paragraph details the political union and constituents. Naomhain's version is less logical and unnecessarily duplicates a number of notions (e.g., "Britain"). 142.150.134.67 01:25, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
"Country" and "state" are not synonymous. Consider this question from the point of view of your own homeland: When you refer to "the state" are you referring to the same thing as when you refer to "the country"? Which of these includes the Great Lakes, your next door neighbour, the city of Vancouver and the hockey team as well as the machinery of government? Mucky Duck 17:29, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
Well yes. But in the case of the UK it goes further than that. The UK is a union of countries, each with their own heritage and culture as well. Naomhain 19:46, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
I've learned to go beyond responding to these narrow personal definitions of country/state that a minority hold. But on an unrelated note, is 'political union' (line 1) and 'unitary state' (about line 4/5) not repeating ourselves? I propose moving unitary state into the first line, instead of political union, and just having 'constiutional monarchy' in the second paragraph. This avoids any possible confusion over the vague 'political union' (which could (possibly) refer other things such as NATO, the EU, the Liberal Democrats or a coalition government - anything that is a union/cooperation between different political entities). --Robdurbar 18:18, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
I also share skepticism about incessantly quibbling over minutiaeterminology, particularly by anons, but including everything in the kitchen sink would serve no purpose. Unfortunately, sometimes fortunately, narrow definitions are the best way to go.
I do not share the supposed confusion regarding "political union" (since it is expanded upon immediately afterward); however, I think I could live with R.'s proposal. That being said, we should probably place something here before subjugating the article to another round of what could be a multitude of tit-for-tat edits. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 18:29, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
OK, I've read some of the discussions above and see that this has been rejected by one editor. Without wanting to rule this out - and I hate to keep this discussion going but I do hope this can be a final thrsahing out - isnt it a slight incuraccy to describe it as a union between the four? It is a union between the entirety of two former kingdoms - the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England - and part of the Kingdom of Ireland. To say it is a political union between four constituent countries... I don't know, but it just seems misleading. How about:

:::::The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom, or the UK and often referred to as "Britain") is a constitional monarchy covering >the island of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Northwestern Europe. It shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland and is otherwise surrounded by the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.

::The country is divided up into the constituent parts (note: could be constituent countries here instead?) of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, known colloquially as the Home Nations. It is goverened as a constitutional monarchy, its current sovereign being Queen Elizabeth II.

ughts on yet another proposal? Oh, and it wasnt that I paticularly thought political union was confusing; but I could see that some might find it so or claim that it is. I'm trying to read these all critically and mitigate against potential critcisms. --Robdurbar 18:33, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

Actually, the current version is better I think. My complaint about political union is not that it is confusing but could be seen as so. --Robdurbar 18:37, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
Why do you find it confusing? Are you really objecting to that because it was not formed historically by the individual nations each joining individually? Naomhain 19:51, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
Hmmm. I also think the current version (in the article) also works. Anyhow, another variant below:
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom or the UK) is a unitary state occupying part of the British Isles in northwestern Europe. Most of its territory and population are on the island of Great Britain and it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland; it is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and its ancillary bodies of water: the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, and the Irish Sea.
A constitutional monarchy, the UK is comprised of four constituent entities: England, Scotland, and Wales on Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland. The UK has several overseas territories, including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, and through the Crown has a constitutional relationship with the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The UK has close relationships with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, which share the same monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – as head of state.
Thoughts? And perhaps we – you – should try avoiding making unnecesary assumptions? :) E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 18:45, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
Strongly disagree. The UK is a union of its constituent countries. The fact that it is a unitary state - still more so that it is a monarchy - and where it is, is entirely subsidiary to that. What is confusing about this? Naomhain 19:46, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
No real objection (as above): just an attempt to derive a version that satisfies everyone ... I think the current version placed is passable. E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 19:56, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
I'm not saying its not a unitary state. I'm not saying its not a country. For me, a political union does give a false impression that you had four independent entities that have come together as poltically represented equals. A pedant - which is what I'm trying to be - would argue that it is not a union of those 4 constiuent countries because Wales was absorbed into England, rather than unififed with it (a difference) and that when the 2nd UK was formed in 1801, it was a union with the whole Kingdom of Ireland which controlled much more of the island of Ireland than the current Northern Ireland does. Furthermore, political union historical inaccuracy and one which I would accept because I know all the history behind the genesis of this intro but one which people could and will raise objections too.

Though I appreciate its a bit dodgy trying to trip up over ourselves over potential objections, I'd rather spend a week arguing over a version that we can then all support and say 'no, we're not changing this, its consensus, its npov, you better have bloody good evidence if you want to change it'. At the moment, all versions have been flawed and, when complained about, we havn't been able to fully support them because we havn't believed in them ourselves - the 'lets not mention what it is' version being typical of these.

I do, on the other hand, prefer the second version which deals with the untiary state/political union problem I had. Now my next question is - can we include anything in the intro that stops people coming here and saying - 'the UK is more than a state, it is a country/nation' etc.? --Robdurbar 21:15, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
I see the issue of the UK's nature as clear-cut as anyone possibly could (it's a country: end of story). Nonetheless, the absence of reference to the UK being, or absence of implication that the UK is, a country is acceptable, even to me, as long as there is no suggestion or implication that it's not. In the suggested introductions so far, there are a few such statements or turns of phrase:
  • The term 'constituent country', which is almost completely unheard of in the UK (they're Home Nations, which is an uncontroversial term) implies, not only that the UK is not a country, but that the Home Nations are countries. Since that enters into a debate that is wholly unnecessary and unproductive, it should be avoided by a straight insertion of 'Home Nations' in its place.
  • The term 'political union' is not included in the second suggested version, but it has been proposed in almost every version so far. The UK is just as much a political union of its Home Nations as France is of its regions. Yes, it is a political (and economic) union, but all states are, so it's not worth mentioning, for fearing of implying something that ought not to be.
  • Stating that the UK is a constitutional monarchy before mentioning that it's a state just makes it seem as though it is the Crown (in the same way as the Kingdom of the Netherlands is), and risks, if done carelessly, suggesting that the Home Nations (especially if called 'constituent countries') are similar to Commonwealth Realms in character. Bastin8 23:39, 9 May 2006 (UTC)
Hence, although although E Pluribus Anthony's latest suggestion is not perfect (from my point of view), I support it on the condition that the term 'constituent countries' is removed and replaced with the relatively uncontroversial 'Home Nations'.
On a related note, the suggested introduction refers to the terms 'Britain' and 'England' in different manners, suggesting that (when referring to the UK) 'Britain' is correct, whereas 'England' is incorrect. Both would be used wrongly, even if the misuse of the former term upsets fewer people than the misuse of the latter. Grudgingly, I concede that reference must be made to that terminology note (in the introduction), but it should clearly mark both as equally incorrect. Bastin8 23:39, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

Home Nations is infinitely preferable to constituent countries because

  1. the latter is not used nor widely understood internationally;
  2. nowhere in legislation is Northern Ireland described a "constituent country" and claims that it is are highly controversial in Scotland and Wales who argue that they are counties and to use a term that equates them with a region is deeply insulting.

Even many Unionists in Northern Ireland scoff at the reference to NI as a "constituent country". Quite what it is is a nightmare to define. But by no definition is it a country! FearÉIREANNIreland-Capitals.PNG\(caint) 23:46, 9 May 2006 (UTC)

I've made some fairly neutral edits above, nixing usage note (covered off through hatnote) and generalising mentions of the 'Home Nations.' Thoughts? E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 00:32, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
That's a good as version as I've seen, and constituent entities fits better than home nations (which I always thought was the 1801-1922 term for when the whole of Ireland was a part). I do wonder whether in the long run we will have people claim that 'unitary state' is exclusive of the UK's civil society elements, but hopefully people will be a bit more broad-mind when reading it.

On a realted note, I have just been reading a book that describes the UK as 'a complex network that spirals through state and para-state, military and para-military apparatus'. Now that would be a bit left field! --Robdurbar 07:02, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

The problem I have with it is that I fundamentally disagree with you that "unitary state" is a good and adequate defintion of what the UK is, and I believe that is what we should be striving for in the introductory statement. Unitary state simply describes its political status and nothing more. The union, on the other hand, covers this as well as its heritage, cultural identity and geography.
I'm not suggesting we lose anything here. We need to say what the UK is politically but this can never be an adequate definition. I am more than happy with E Pluribus Anthony's version, preferably with Bastin8's modification to "Home Nations" if the order of the first two paragraphs is reversed. Naomhain 08:24, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Re "That's a good as version as I've seen". I can't agree with you on that at all. This is back to more or less the same wording as the unacceptable version we had last year. The UK is not just a state - it is a country. Mucky Duck 08:39, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

Options

OK, it seems to me that we have the following views. I may be generalizaing here, but there you go:

Position Explanation Words disliked Words liked
'The UK is a state not a country' Feel that the calling the UK a country is inaccurate because it is made up of smaller entities that are often called countries. This is due to the vagueness of the popular use of words such as country. They see that calling the UK country is basicially denying the 'countryness' of England/Wales etc. Country/nation State, monarchy, union
'The UK is more than a state' Feel that the word state is too exclusive and refers only to the governmental bodies of the UK. They see it as exclusing the asepcts of civil society or culture that are part of the UK (e.g. shared tv channels or whatever) State, union Country
'State and Country are synonyms' Feel that, whatever their origins and occaisional political appropriations, the words state and country are effectively synonyms. Some will say that as state is more technical it is better in an enyclopeida; some might see this as an over use of jargon and may favour country as more inclusive None in particular; may feel certain terms such as political union or consitutional monarchy are a bit obscure for use Country/State, no overall prefence

Is this a fairly accurate schematic of the ongoing debate? I essentially see this as being an argument between the top two, with the third group attempting to come up with compromises that keep both others happy. The various versions that have been used/suggested so far, then, are:

  • 'State' (supported by 1, rejected highly by 2)
  • 'Country'(visa versa)
  • 'Constituional Monarchy'
  • 'Political Union' (my personal least favourite, by the way, but I would be more than happy with anything that got put in)
  • 'Unitary State'
  • 'Kingdom'
  • - (nothing)

Now I'm not a fan of votes and dont think we need to go there yet, but hopefully that lines up our options. People who have a strong view on this need to realise that they are arguing about words that different people give different meanings to, and that as we appear to have rejected having nothing, one of group 1/2 need to relent. --Robdurbar 09:44, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

So anyone who refers to, or thinks that therre are, definate definitions of country/state are really the people I'm talking too there. --Robdurbar 09:47, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
I have not seen any valid reason yet not to call a spade a spade and define the UK in terms of the Union. That is, after all what the UK is, and covers all of the other things, none of which are fully inclusive. What is the problem with it? Naomhain 10:08, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
I agree that union is fine - its just my least favourite is all; what I objected to was ' a union of england, scotland, wales and northern ireland' cos I thought that's a bit misleading. Political union of the nations of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would be better, if we had to have union. --Robdurbar 16:20, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

Comments

This is truly getting pedantic for not what, with many of the same arguments being rehashed without citation ... there seems little conciliation or agreement on anything. I also do not necessarily think the above is a complete summary of the debate. Some thoughts:

  • There's no denying (at least on my part) that the UK is a "country" and government links corroborate that; however, in this context, it is vague and somewhat inappropriate ... particularly given the UK's history, breadth, and constituent elements. Moreover, while it is used in some common reference texts, international relations compendia do not and deprecate the term; thus, this isn't a singular perspective.
  • "Nation" is even more vague and not preferable given the existence of four Home Nations, et al.
  • Current government links self-describe the UK as a "(sovereign) state"; thus, argumentation that it is not and limited to a specific aspect of the UK rings rather hollow. Various reputable texts also describe the UK as a "unitary state" – compare with any smattering of countries/articles that are described as "federal states (federations)" – and nothing has been provided to either discount or indicate that this is incorrect.
  • Ditto for "constitutional monarchy", which is somewhat expanded upon in descriptions of the UK's relationships with Crown dependencies and Commonwealth Realms; also, see point above for "state".
  • I'm unsure why there's (minor) difficulty with the term "political union" – even substitute it with the esoteric "polity" or just "union": there's an apt article (wky) in Wp and is probably as neutral as we're going to get. As well, subjectivity aside, its usage herein has not been verifiably discounted as incorrect.

And it's the height of hubris to think we need to include all of them in some way: besides, the UK is all of them simultaneously and in varying degrees. In any event, I'm providing yet another neutered version below (somewhat harking of a prior version):

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom or the UK) is a (political) union occupying part of the British Isles in northwestern Europe. Most of its territory and population are on the island of Great Britain and it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland; it is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and its ancillary bodies of water: the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, and the Irish Sea.
A unitary state and constitutional monarchy, the UK is comprised of four constituent entities: England, Scotland, and Wales on Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland. The country has several overseas territories, including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, and through the Crown has a constitutional relationship with the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The UK has close relationships with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, which share the same monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – as head of state.

Thoughts? Beyond this, I really can't comment further. Thanks! E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 11:46, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

I for one am perfectly content with that one. As a minor point I would ask if we need to rename the link "constituent entities": I understand the problem with constituent countries but what's wrong with ".. the four home nations .."? Naomhain 12:36, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
I don't see why this step (backwards, in my opinion) was taken, towards opening the article with the term 'political union'. As far as I have seen it used, there are two accepted definitions of the term:
  • The first ('loose') definition refers to any entity that is governed by a singular government by mutual consent, continual or one-time. In that respect, every state is a political union, and England is only in political union with Scotland insofar as London is with Southampton. If this definition is accepted, it's not worth mentioning, as it's implicit within the definition of the UK as a 'state'.
  • The second ('strict') definition is the one used by the Wikipedia article on political union, and refers to two or more smaller states that share a government by continual mutual consent, retain all constitutive sovereignty, but concede some other sovereignty (usually legislative). In that respect, it is synonymous with constitutive confederation, and includes very few states (currently, UAE and Serbia & Montenegro) and the EU. If this definition is accepted, the UK is not a political union, as none of the Home Nations has any constitutive sovereignty of any sort (i.e. it is a unitary state with some regional characteristics).
Open with 'unitary state', and you can't really go wrong. Bastin8 13:25, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Except that that is only a limited part of what the UK is. You might just as well say The UK is a lump of rock. Mucky Duck 13:31, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
I can see what you're getting at. In fact "The UK is a union ..." etc. is too loose. What we should be saying is that the UK is the union of the home nations. Unitary state is not an adequate definition as discussed above. Naomhain 14:16, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Ok, well if we all accept EPA's latest version (with the exception of Mucky Duck) and the replacement of 'a political union on the British Isles' with 'the political union of the home nations on the island of Great Britain and Northern Ireland' (this also avoids the politically sensitive 'British Isles'), then could we call it closed and consensus? --Robdurbar 16:29, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Sorry, but I can't, either. The United Kingdom was the political union of the Home Nations, but it's not now (using the second definition, which Wikipedia assumes in its article), any more than Japan is the political union of the Home Islands. No matter how large the Home Nations loom in the public consciousness, the UK is a unitary state, and that must be made very clear from the beginning (assuming that 'country' is off the table, which it must be). Bastin8 17:29, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Actually, I think I can live with that. Yes, I'd prefer it to say "country", but I can accept "union" and can see that in some respects it has advantages. Mucky Duck 20:11, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
This seems an intractable debate between the 'statists' and 'countryists'. :) I think the current edition in the article, embellished by me but tweaked by an anon (!), is sufficient:
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom or the UK) is a union occupying part of the British Isles in northwestern Europe, comprised of the constituent entities of England, Scotland, and Wales on the island of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland on the island of Ireland. Most of its territory and population are on Great Britain and it shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland on the island of Ireland; it is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and its ancillary bodies of water: the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, and the Irish Sea.
A unitary state and constitutional monarchy, the country has several overseas territories, including Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands, and through the Crown has a constitutional relationship with the Crown dependencies of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The UK has close relationships with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms, which share the same monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – as head of state.
Merely noting it is a "union" of this and that (which can be rewikified to merely "union" (hence United Kingdom...) seems to make sense, and all of the major terms (state, monarchy, country) are detailed later on. "Home Nations" (wikified as "constituent entities") is commonly used in sporting contexts but little beyond that, I think. And, I'm sorry: "British Isles" is a verifiably common term for that archipelago (and think it foolish to merely indicate that the UK is "on an archipelago in northwestern Europe"). Thoughts? E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 17:34, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Fine by me, I was uncomfortable with 'home nations' for the preivously disussed reasons. I wonder whether we should exclude the 'occupying part of the British Isles' bit due to the sensativity of the phrase --Robdurbar 17:46, 10 May 2006 (UTC)
Great. As above, though, "British Isles" is common: the same sources that describe the UK as a country, like EB, also indicate that GB is the largest of the British Isles (etc.), so it should stay.
PS: Forgive the edit conflicts ... perfectionsim: I need to use the preview feature more! :) E Pluribus Anthony | talk | 17:52, 10 May 2006 (UTC)

If I'm reading the above correctly, I believe we have agreement on this. Right? If so, I believe we can close this matter and move forward on other fronts. Thanks or the input. E Pluribus Anthony | talk |

Take 2

I do not wish to disturb the consensus, but can I just re-iterate the point that not a single person who is actually British has expressed the opinion that the UK is not a country. Fortunately British people are well-known for their politeness and willingness to compromise with people. DJ Clayworth 17:40, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Irrelevant (and untrue - I know of at least two UK citizens who have objected to the use of the word "country" in application to the UK). --Mais oui! 17:43, 16 May 2006 (UTC)
Not irrelevant. Two is not a very big number. (I was referring to Wikipedia editors, not the general population). Some Americans object to the US being called a democracy because they think it's a fascist police state. DJ Clayworth 17:53, 16 May 2006 (UTC)
It is utterly, utterly irrelevant. Wikipedia is a global project: do you think that only Nigerians should be allowed to edit the Nigeria article? Costa Ricans the Costa Rica article or Greenlanders the Greenland article? The nationality of editors is always irrelevant, and to try to claim that non-UK citizens have less authority than UK citizens is a clear breach of Wikipedia:No personal attacks. (By the way, I was referring to two UK-citizen Wikipedians who have been prominent in objecting to the word "country"). --Mais oui! 18:09, 16 May 2006 (UTC)
No, but I do think citizens of a country have a reasonable right to be heard on the name applied to their country. Do other people get to have a say in whether the US can call itself the United States? British people are more likely to be well-informed on whether the UK is commonly referred to as a country (which it clearly is) and whether it is officially referred to as a country (which it clearly is). As for whoever these two people are, they were'nt here for the latest round of discussions. Maybe you should send them to this discussion so we can talk about it. DJ Clayworth 18:22, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Yeah, as I've pointed out before it really doesn't make it a difference what your nationality is. Following this logic, the British National Party would have the right to describe their party in the terms they want, and not in those used by reputable sources.

As for the intro - do we still want to stick with the discussed version above? It could be reverted to the Version of May 8 as a holding version till another intro is developed? --Robdurbar 19:31, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

I don't think so. It is back to almost how it was when I made the first comment that started this round of discussion - i.e. the intro paragraph doesn't say what the UK is. Normally I'd be happy to concede a point, but frankly I get the impression here that the concessions are being made to the people who object to 'country' not because they are right, or even in the majority, but because they make the most noise. Lets lay out some facts:

  1. The government of the UK frequently and clearly refers to the UK as a country.
  2. Governments of other nations frequently and clearly refer to the UK as a country.
  3. Many, many news organisations and reference works frequently and clearly refer to the UK as a country.
  4. The vast majority of the citizens and residents of the UK would consider it to be a country.
  5. The Wiktionary definition of country is "a nation state, a political entity asserting ultimate authority over a large geographical area", which the UK obviously satisfies.

Against this appear to be a few editors who 'object', though on what grounds is not clear. DJ Clayworth 19:53, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

We managed to survive for 6 months since the last time this all blew up; before that, another few months. How about we call it an end and go back to calling it a country, like we always do?
James F. (talk) 22:59, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Well for one thing the longest accepeted version didn't call it a country. --Robdurbar 07:14, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

... whut? The long-term version opened with:
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (usually shortened to the United Kingdom or the UK) is a country situated on a collection of islands known as the British Isles off the north-western coast of continental Europe, and surrounded by the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.
I think that you're mistaken. :-)
James F. (talk) 17:22, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

I refer to the version that lasted from mid February to early May this year, which called it neither a state nor a country. I was under the impression that no version prior to that had gone for any longer period (3 months) without reversions. --Robdurbar 21:53, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Well, I was referring to the version of the text that, although edit-warred over a little, remained essentially the same for over a year up until around March. Sorry that that wasn't clear.
James F. (talk) 23:37, 17 May 2006 (UTC)

Opinion

This is just for my information, and not meant to be binding, but if you are British and think that the UK should not be called a country, please leave your name here. If you feel strongly enough feel free to start a list of British people who think it should be called a country. DJ Clayworth 18:31, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Of course it should be called a country. And more importantly it should not be defined as a state - it is more than that. Mucky Duck 20:02, 16 May 2006 (UTC)
It may perhaps be uniquely important in the case of the UK that this neutral word "country" is used instead of the loaded (at least in the UK) term "state". Militant separatists use that to suggest an evil, alien occupation character to the UK (as in state control, state interference) over the country that they would wish to see "reborn". We have number of such people here in this country – they are voluble but they only form a small proportion of the population. Naomhain 08:16, 17 May 2006 (UTC)
Should be called a country. Country isn't a well-defined legal or political term with a hierarchy that precludes (say) Scotland also being referred to as a country, so uncertainty/strong feelings about the status of the 'Home Nations' shouldn't stop us applying this imprecise but extremely well-known term to the UK. I'm British, but I think that's irrelevant. Barely anyone in the UK Britain spends any time thinking about whether the UK is a country. For most people, it's more of a late-night, had-slightly-too-much-to-drink-and-there's-no-one-attractive-left-in-the-pub conversation.
I agree that 'state' is viewed as an unattractive term in the UK, not least because for many it implies a relationship with a federal structure (thanks to the USA, the EU and Germany). Using it is just begging for dissent. And 'nation', which was suggested somewhere further up the talk page, is just silly. If you can't convince the celtic Cornish that they're part of the same 'natio' as the East-Anglians, you don't stand a chance with the rest of the country (there's that word again). Kayman1uk 14:04, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

There seems to be a lot of support for 'country'; I propose to leave it as it is for about a week and then change to put country somewhere in the first two paragraphs, if it is still agreed upon --Robdurbar 15:49, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

I think that makes sense Rob. But I wonder if we shouldn't try to change the article sooner. I think it's possible that some people aren't paying attention to this debate (cos it's not on their watch list) but will take notice as soon as the article itself is changed. If we make a change then we'll get their opinions sooner. DJ Clayworth 15:59, 18 May 2006 (UTC)


The question is: "Is the UK a country"... yes?
The answer is yes - the UK is a country.
The four regions, or constituent parts, of the UK are also considered countries. More so now that each of them (apart from England) have their own forms of devolution (the current crisis in Northern Ireland notwithstanding).
Mais oui!, you have stated: "I was referring to two UK-citizen Wikipedians". I ask you - citizens of what exactly? And I answer: citizens of the country.
In Wikipedia itself, the word Country is defined as: In political geography and international politics a country is a geographical territory. It is used casually in the sense of both the concept of nation (a cultural entity; see below) and state (a political entity).
The UK is seen, both by its inhabitants and foreigners, as both of these. There are of course objections to both by separatists (and/or nationalists)... but that is a political ideology - a desire to change the constitutional status.
Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, has referred to the UK as "countries within a country". Other politicians and Prime Ministers have frequently referred to "this country". Its inhabitants, when speaking of the UK, often simply say "this country" or "our country". When asked "What country are you from?", a frequent answer given by a UK citizen is "the UK". I say a frequent answer only because some people have different words they use as the noun, when they refer to the UK.. such as "Britain" or "Great Britain". Others are more specific and refer instead to the constituent country instead in answer to the question: "England"; "Northern Ireland"; "Scotland" and "Wales" might also be the answer given. In forms on the website, or on paper, are filled out, when applying for something, often choices are given in a question asking which country are you a resident or national of: "UK; Ukraine; USA;" etc. The UK Passport Agency, when referring to the UK, states on several occassions the phrase "entered the country" and variations thereof.
  • "You can apply at one of the four Home Office Public Caller Units around the country.";
  • "You should be engaged before you enter the country";
  • "first entered the country as a visitor";
  • "However,the child will be able to become a British citizen if their parents settle here later,or if they spend their first ten years in this country";
  • "They must meet certain conditions to enter the country;

...etc

I think that just about wraps it up for that question. The UK is most definately a country.
As a side-note, I'd love to see the evidence backing up what Jtdirl has stated about unionists in Northern Ireland, that some allegedly object to the term "constituent country" in reference to Northern Ireland. I have not met one who objects, and I live amongst them. --Mal 11:18, 20 May 2006 (UTC)

I'm going to make the change

In view of the opinions expressed here (hugely in favour of country) and the total absence of anyone making any serious objection, I'm going to make the change and call the UK a country. What I expect is that a whole load of people who haven't participated in the debate so far will suddenly get involved (or possibly just revert without discussing), but we've go to do it sometime. OK, here goes. DJ Clayworth 16:59, 22 May 2006 (UTC)

Some Objections

Since nobody who objects to the UK being called a country seems to be expressing an opinion, I thought I would take the opportunity to mention some possible objections, and why I personally think they are wrong:

  1. "You can't have a country within a country, and England and Scotland are countries.". My first answer here is 'who says'? It's certainly unusual to have a country within a country, but there is no reason why its impossible. If you look at Wiktionary it gives two definitions of country (plus some others which are not relevant). The UK fulfills the first, that of being a 'nation state', and England and Scotland fulfil the second, that of being historically independent nations - in fact they are explicitly mentioned as examples. My second answer is that if you absolutely insist that only one level of organisation can be labelled 'country' then the UK fulfils the criterion much better than England or Scotland, which have less practical autonomy than, for example, a US state. Not that I would personally want to deny the label 'country' to England or Scotland, but if someone forced the issue then the UK is the better choice.
  2. "The UK is really a nation state, or a kingdom, or a union, not a country". Nobody would deny that the UK is any of these. But there is no reason for these to be exclusive. There are plenty of kingdoms that are also countries. The US is an example of a union that is also a country. And one definition of country, according to Wiktionary, is 'nation state'.

DJ Clayworth 16:18, 18 May 2006 (UTC)

References

I'm also starting a list of references where the UK is called a country. Since there are probably many millions of these lets restrict it to major and well-know sources. Once again this is not meant to disrupt the status quo of the article, just to make sure that we don't get into the same argument too many times. I'll start. Feel free to add. DJ Clayworth 18:22, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

An interesting list, and one I would support. As stated before, personal preference is 'not really bothered' but if we have the authority of MI5, BBC, Human Rights Watch and Edinbrugh Uni amongst others...? --Robdurbar 19:31, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Consensus

For those arriving at this discussion after it ended, let me record the consensus, which was that it is perfectly OK to refer to the UK as a country. This is backed up by a huge number of references. The constituents (England, Scotland etc) can also be referred to as countries. DJ Clayworth 19:26, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

To avoid future confusion should this issue arise again, I'll label this section an archive, and encourage others to contribute on the main talk page. --Robdurbar 20:01, 31 May 2006 (UTC)