The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country 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 UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.
The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four constituent countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The latter three of these are devolved administrations, each with varying powers, based in their capital cities Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are the three Crown dependencies: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories. These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.
The UK is a developed country and has the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest economy 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 is still sometimes referred to as a great power and retains 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 UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a member of the European Union and its predecessor the European Economic Community since 1973. It is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G8, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization.
Famous quotes containing the words united and/or kingdom:
“Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.”
—William Howard Taft (18571930)
“Was I not born in this Realm? Were my parents born in any foreign country?... Is not my Kingdom here? Whom have I oppressed? Whom have I enriched to others harm? What turmoil have I made to this Commonwealth that I should be suspected to have no regard of the same?”
—Elizabeth I (15331603)