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United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,[nb 5] commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) and 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 state—the Republic of Ireland.[nb 6] Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean in the west and north, the North Sea in the east, the English Channel in the south and the Irish Sea in the west. COMPAQ Presario C700 Laptop Keyboard The form of government is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. The capital city is London. It consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.[9] The latter three have devolvedadministrations, each with varying powers,[10][11] based in their capital cities, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfastrespectively. Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man are Crown dependencies and are not part of the UK.[12] The United Kingdom has fourteen British Overseas Territories.[13] HP Pavilion dv6-3047eo Laptop Keyboard These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was thelargest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the prevalence of language, culture and legal systems in many of its former colonies. HP Pavilion dv6-3012eg Laptop Keyboard The UK is a developed country and has the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest economyby purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country[14] and the world's foremost powerduring the 19th and early 20th centuries.[15] The UK is still referred to as a great power and retains considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally.[16][17] It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks fourth in the world.[18]HP Mini 210-1084TU Laptop Keyboard 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. FUJITSU Amilo Mini Ui 3520 Laptop Keyboard The 1707 Acts of Union declared that England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain" though the new state is also referred to in the Acts as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the United Kingdom.[19][20][nb 7] The term United Kingdom is found in informal use during the 18th century and the country was occasionally referred to as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain".[21]HP 636376-001 Laptop Keyboard The Acts of Union 1800, united the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland in 1801, and introduced the name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[22][23][24][25] The name "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" was adopted in 1927 by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act. It reflected the reality of the independence of the Irish Free State, and the partitioning of Ireland in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland still within the UK.[26]HP Pavilion DV9233EU Laptop Keyboard Although the United Kingdom, as a sovereign state, is a country, England, Scotland, Wales and (more controversially) Northern Ireland are also regarded as 'countries', though not sovereign states. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved self-government.[27][28] The British Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom.[9] With regard to Northern Ireland, the descriptive name used "can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences."[29] Terms used for Northern Ireland include "region" and "province".[30][31] HP Pavilion DV9205CA Laptop Keyboard The term Britain is often used as a short form for the United Kingdom. The term Great Britain strictly only refers to the main island which includes England, Scotland and Wales.[32][33][34] However, some foreign usage, particularly in the United States, uses Great Britain as a loose synonym for the United Kingdom.[35][36] GB and GBR are the standard country codes for the United Kingdom (see ISO 3166-2 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-3) and are consequently commonly used by international organisations to refer to the United Kingdom.[citation needed] Also, the United Kingdom's Olympic team competes under the name "Great Britain" or "Team GB".[37][38] DELL Vostro 3550 Laptop Keyboard The adjective British is commonly used to refer to matters relating to the United Kingdom. The term has no definite legal connotation, however, it is used in law to refer to UK citizenship and matters to do with nationality.[39] British people use a number of different terms to describe their national identity and may identify themselves as being British; or as being English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, or Irish;[40] or as being both.[41]ACER Aspire 5610Z Laptop Keyboard In 2006, a new design of British passport was introduced. Its first page shows the long form name of the state in English, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic.[42] In Welsh, the long form name of the state is "Teyrnas Unedig Prydain Fawr a Gogledd Iwerddon" with "Teyrnas Unedig" being used as a short form name on government websites.[43] In Scottish Gaelic, the long form is "Rìoghachd Aonaichte na Breatainne Mòire is Èireann a Tuath" and the short form "Rìoghachd Aonaichte". DELL PVDG3 Laptop Keyboard Settlement by anatomically modern humans of what was to become the United Kingdom occurred in waves beginning by about 30,000 years ago.[44] By the end of the region's prehistoric period, the population is thought to have belonged, in the main, to a culture termed Insular Celtic, comprising Brythonic Britain and Gaelic Ireland.[45] COMPAQ Presario C700 Laptop Keyboard The Roman conquest, beginning in 43 AD, and the 400-year rule of southern Britain, was followed by an invasion by Germanic Anglo-Saxon settlers, reducing the Brythonic areamainly to what was to become Wales.[46] Most of the region settled by the Anglo-Saxons became unified as the Kingdom of Englandin the 10th century.[47] Meanwhile, Gaelic-speakers in north west Britain (with connections to the north-east of Ireland and traditionally supposed to have migrated from there in the 5th century)[48][49] united with the Picts to create the Kingdom of Scotland in the 9th century.[50]TOSHIBA NB200 Laptop Keyboard In 1066, the Normans invaded England and after its conquest, seized large parts of Wales,conquered much of Ireland and settled in Scotland bringing to each country feudalism on the Northern French model and Norman-French culture.[51] The Norman elites greatly influenced, but eventually assimilated with, each of the local cultures.[52]Subsequent medieval English kings completed the conquest of Wales and made an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to annex Scotland. Thereafter, Scotland maintained its independence, albeit in near-constant conflict with England. The English monarchs, through inheritance of substantial territories in France and claims to the French crown, were also heavily involved in conflicts in France, most notably the Hundred Years War.[53]HP G42-364LA Laptop Keyboard The early modern period saw religious conflict resulting from the Reformation and the introduction of Protestant state churches in each country.[54] Wales was fully incorporated into the Kingdom of England,[55] and Ireland was constituted as a kingdom in personal union with the English crown.[56] In what was to become Northern Ireland, the lands of the independent Catholic Gaelic nobility were confiscated and given to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.[57] In 1603, the kingdoms of England, FUJITSU Amilo Mini Ui 3520 Laptop Keyboard Scotland and Ireland were united in a personal union when James VI, King of Scots, inherited the crowns of England and Ireland and moved his court from Edinburgh to London; each country nevertheless remained a separate political entity and retained its separate political institutions.[58][59] In the mid-17th century, all three kingdoms were involved in a series of connected wars (including the English Civil War) which led to the temporary overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the short-lived unitary republic of the Commonwealth of England, COMPAQ Presario C700 Laptop Keyboard Scotland and Ireland.[60][61] Although the monarchy was restored, it ensured (with the Glorious Revolution of 1688) that, unlike much of the rest of Europe, royal absolutismwould not prevail. The British constitution would develop on the basis of constitutional monarchy and the parliamentary system.[62] During this period, particularly in England, the development of naval power (and the interest in voyages of discovery) led to the acquisition and settlement of overseas colonies, particularly in North America.[63][64]HP Pavilion G60-230 Laptop Keyboard The unified kingdom of Great Britain came into being on 1st May 1707, the result of Acts of Union being passed by the parliaments of England and Scotland to ratify the 1706 Treaty of Union and so unite the two kingdoms.[65][66][67]HP Pavilion DV7-3065dx Laptop Keyboard In the 18th century, cabinet government developed under Robert Walpole, in practice the first prime minister (1721-1742). A series of Jacobite Rebellions sought to remove the House of Hanover from the British throne and restore the House of Stuart. They were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, after which the Scottish Highlanders were brutally suppressed. The British colonies in North America that broke away from Britain in the American War of Independence became the USA. TOSHIBA Satellite L655-S5114 Laptop Keyboard British imperial ambition turned elsewhere, particularly to India.[68] During the 18th century, Britain was involved in theAtlantic slave trade. Britain transported an estimated 2 million slaves from Africa to the West Indies before banning the trade in 1807.[69] The term 'United Kingdom' became official in 1801 when the parliaments of Britain and Ireland each passed an Act of Union, uniting the two kingdoms and creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[70]COMPAQ Presario C700 Laptop Keyboard In the early 19th century, the British-led Industrial Revolution began to transform the country. It slowly led to a shift in political power away from the old landowning Tory elites to the new industrialists. The alliance of merchants and industrialists with the Whigs would lead to a new party, the Liberal Party (UK), with an ideology of free trade and laissez-faire. In 1832 they passed the Great Reform Act which began the transfer of political power from the aristocracy to the middle classes. In the countryside,enclosure of the land was driving small farmers out. Towns and cities began to swell with a new urban working class. Ordinary workers had no vote and created their own organisations in the form of trade unions. HP G62-107SA Laptop Keyboard After the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), the UK emerged as the principal naval and imperial power of the 19th century (with London the largest city in the world from about 1830).[71] Unchallenged at sea, British dominance was later described as Pax Britannica.[72][73] By the time of the Great Exhibition of 1851, Britain was described as the "workshop of the world".[74] The British Empire was expanded to include India, large parts of Africa, SONY 148024022 Laptop Keyboard and many other territories throughout the world. Alongside the formal control it exerted over its own colonies, Britain's dominant position in world trade meant that it effectively controlled the economies of many countries, such as China, Argentina and Siam.[75][76] Domestically, there was an increasing shift to free trade and laissez-faire policies and a gradual widening of the voting franchise. The country experienced a huge population increase during the century, accompanied by rapid urbanisation, causing significant social and economic stresses.[77]IBM Lenovo Thinkpad X201 Laptop Keyboard After 1875, the UK's industrial monopoly was challenged by Germany and the USA. To seek new markets and sources of raw materials, the Conservative Party (UK) under Disraeli launched a period of imperialist expansion in Egypt, South Africa and elsewhere. Canada, Australia and New Zealand became self-governing dominions.[78]HP pavilion DV7-1000 Laptop Keyboard Social reform and home rule for Ireland were important domestic issues after 1900. The Labour Party (UK) emerged from an alliance of trade unions and small Socialist groups in 1900 and suffragettes campaigned for women's right to vote before 1914. HP 608558-001 Laptop Keyboard The UK fought with France, Russia and (after 1917) the US, against Germany and its allies in the First World War (1914–18).[79] The UK armed forces were engaged across much of the British Empire and in several regions of Europe, particularly on the Western front.[80] After the war, the UK received the League of Nations mandate over a number of former German andOttoman colonies, and the British Empire had reached its greatest extent, covering a fifth of the world's land surface and a quarter of its population.[81] DELL Latitude D620 Laptop Keyboard However, the UK had suffered some two and a half million casualties and finished the war with a huge national debt.[80] The rise of Irish Nationalism and disputes within Ireland over the terms of Irish Home Rule led eventually to the partition of the island in 1921,[82] and the Irish Free State became independent with Dominion status in 1922. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom.[83] A wave of strikes in the mid-1920s culminated in the UK General Strike of 1926. The UK had still not recovered from the effects of the war when the Great Depression (1929–32) occurred. This led to considerable unemployment and hardship in the old industrial areas as well as political and social unrest in the 1930s. A coalition government was formed in 1931.[84]TOSHIBA NB100-11G Laptop Keyboard The UK entered World War II by declaring war on Germany in 1939. In 1940, Winston Churchill became prime minister and head of a coalition government. Despite the defeat of its European allies in the first year of the war, the UK continued the fight alone against Germany. In 1940, the RAF defeated the German Luftwaffein a struggle for control of the skies in the Battle of Britain. The UK nevertheless sustained heavy bombing during the Blitz. There were also eventual hard-fought victories in the Battle of the Atlantic, HP G42-364LA Laptop Keyboard the North Africa campaign and Burma campaign. UK forces played an important role in the Normandy landings of 1944. After Germany's defeat, the UK was one of the Big Three powers that met to plan the post-war world and was an original signatory to the Declaration of the United Nations. The UK became one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. However, the war left the UK severely weakened and depending financially on Marshall Aid and loans from the United States.[85]DELL NSK-D8001 Laptop Keyboard In the immediate post-war years, the Labour government initiated a radical programme of reforms, which had a significant impact on British society in the following decades.[86] Major industries and public utilities were nationalised, aWelfare State was established, and a comprehensive publicly funded healthcare system, the National Health Service, was created.[87] The rise of nationalism in the colonies coincided with Britain's now much-diminished economic position, so that a policy of decolonisation was unavoidable. Independence was granted to India and Pakistan in 1947.[88] Over the next three decades, most colonies of the British Empire gained their independence. Many became members of theCommonwealth of Nations.[89]HP Pavilion dv6-2021el Laptop Keyboard Although the UK was the third country to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal (with its first atomic bomb test in 1952), the new post-war limits of Britain's international role were illustrated by the Suez Crisis of 1956. The international spread of the English language ensured the continuing international influence of its literature and culture,  APPLE A1181 Laptop Keyboard while from the 1960s its popular culture was also influential abroad. As a result of a shortage of workers in the 1950s, the UK government encouraged immigration from Commonwealth countries. In the following decades, the UK became a multi-ethnic society.[90] Despite rising living standards in the late 1950s and 1960s, the UK's economic performance was not as successful as many of its competitors, such as West Germany and Japan. In 1973, the UK joined the European Economic Community (EEC), and when the EEC became the European Union (EU) in 1992,  DELL Vostro 3550 Laptop Keyboard it was one of the 12 founding members. From the late 1960s Northern Ireland suffered communal and paramilitary violence (sometimes affecting other parts of the UK) conventionally known as the Troubles. It is usually considered to have ended with the Belfast "Good Friday" Agreement of 1998.[91][92][93]HP Pavilion dv6-3047eo Laptop Keyboard Following a period of widespread economic slowdown and industrial strife in the 1970s, the Conservative Government of the 1980s initiated a radical policy ofmonetarism, deregulation, particularly of the financial sector (for example, Big Bang in 1986) and labour markets, the sale of state-owned companies (privatisation), and the withdrawal of subsidies to others.[94] This resulted in high unemployment and social unrest, but ultimately also economic growth, particularly in the services sector. From 1984, the economy was helped by the inflow of substantial North Sea oil revenues.[95]HP AELX6U00210 Laptop Keyboard Around the end of the 20th century there were major changes to the governance of the UK with the establishment of devolved national administrations for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.[96] The statutory incorporation followed acceptance of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK is still a key global player diplomatically and militarily. It plays leading roles in the EU, UN and NATO. However, controversy surrounds some of Britain's overseas military deployments, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.[97]HP G42-364LA Laptop Keyboard In 2013, the UK is striving to recover from a slump that followed the 2008 global financial crisis. A coalition government has introduced austerity measures which aim to tackle a large budget deficit.[98] The total area of the United Kingdom is approximately 243,610 square kilometres (94,060 sq mi). The country occupies the major part of the British Isles[99] archipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and some smaller surrounding islands. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea with the south-east coast coming within 35 kilometres (22 mi) of the coast of northern France, from which it is separated by the English Channel.[100] As of 1993 10% of the UK was forested, 46% used for pastures and 25% used for agriculture.[101] The Royal Greenwich Observatory in London is the defining point of the Prime Meridian.[102]DELL Vostro 3550 Laptop Keyboard The United Kingdom lies between latitudes 49° to 61° N, and longitudes 9° W to 2° E. Northern Ireland shares a 360-kilometre (224 mi) land boundary with the Republic of Ireland.[100] The coastline of Great Britain is 17,820 kilometres (11,073 mi) long.[103]It is connected to continental Europe by the Channel Tunnel, which at 50 kilometres (31 mi) (38 kilometres (24 mi) underwater) is the longest underwater tunnel in the world.[104]TOSHIBA Satellite A300 Laptop Keyboard England accounts for just over half of the total area of the UK, covering 130,395 square kilometres (50,350 sq mi).[105] Most of the country consists of lowland terrain,[101] with mountainous terrain north-west of the Tees-Exe line; including the Cumbrian Mountainsof the Lake District, the Pennines and limestone hills of the Peak District, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber. England's highest mountain is Scafell Pike (978 metres (3,209 ft)) in the Lake District. Its principal rivers are the Severn, Thames, Humber, Tees, Tyne, Tweed, Avon, Exe and Mersey.[101]HP 519265-001 Laptop Keyboard Scotland accounts for just under a third of the total area of the UK, covering 78,772 square kilometres (30,410 sq mi)[106] and including nearly eight hundred islands,[107] predominantly west and north of the mainland; notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands. The topography of Scotland is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault—a geological rock fracture—which traverses Scotland from Arran in the west to Stonehaven in the east.[108]The faultline separates two distinctively different regions; HP Pavilion dv6-3047eo Laptop Keyboard namely the Highlands to the north and west and the lowlands to the south and east. The more rugged Highland region contains the majority of Scotland's mountainous land, including Ben Neviswhich at 1,343 metres (4,406 ft) is the highest point in the British Isles.[109] Lowland areas, especially the narrow waist of land between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth known as the Central Belt, are flatter and home to most of the population including Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, and Edinburgh, its capital and political centre. HP Pavilion G60-230 Laptop Keyboard Wales accounts for less than a tenth of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres (8,020 sq mi).[110] Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales, consisting of the coastal cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, and the South Wales Valleys to their north. The highest mountains in Wales are in Snowdonia and include Snowdon (Welsh: Yr Wyddfa) which, ASUS X53S Laptop Keyboard at 1,085 metres (3,560 ft), is the highest peak in Wales.[101] The 14, or possibly 15, Welsh mountains over 3,000 feet (914 m) high are known collectively as the Welsh 3000s. Wales has over 1,200 kilometres (746 miles) of coastline. There are several islands off the Welsh mainland, the largest of which is Anglesey (Ynys Môn) in the northwest.  FUJITSU Amilo Mini Ui 3520 Laptop Keyboard3 Northern Ireland accounts for just 14,160 square kilometres (5,470 sq mi) and is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh which, at 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi), is the largest lake in the British Isles by area.[111] The highest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains at 852 metres (2,795 ft).[101]DELL Vostro 3550 Laptop Keyboard (12 °F) or rising above 35 °C (95 °F).[112] The prevailing wind is from the south-west and bears frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean,[100] although the eastern parts are mostly sheltered from this wind—as the majority of the rain falls over the western regions the eastern parts are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters; especially in the west where winters are wet and even more so over high ground. Summers are warmest in the south-east of England, being closest to the European mainland, and coolest in the north. Heavy snowfall can occur in winter and early spring on high ground, and occasionally settles to great depth away from the hills.[113] SONY VAIO VGN-AW11Z Laptop Keyboard Each country of the United Kingdom has its own system of administrative and geographic demarcation, whose origins often pre-date the formation of the United Kingdom. Thus there is "no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom".[114] Until the 19th century there was little change to those arrangements, but there has since been a constant evolution of role and function.[115] Change did not occur in a uniform manner and the devolution of power over local government to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland means that future changes are unlikely to be uniform either. SONY VAIO VGN-AW11Z Laptop Keyboard The organisation of local government in England is complex, with the distribution of functions varying according to local arrangements. Legislation concerning local government in England is the responsibility of the UK parliament and theGovernment of the United Kingdom, as England has no devolved parliament. The upper-tier subdivisions of England are the nineGovernment office regions or European Union government office regions.[116] One region, Greater London,  HP G56-126NR Laptop Keyboard has had a directly elected assembly and mayor since 2000 following popular support for the proposal in a referendum.[117] It was intended that other regions would also be given their own elected regional assemblies, but a proposed assembly in the North East region was rejected by a referendum in 2004.[118] Below the regional tier, some parts of England have county councils and district councils and others have unitary authorities; while London consists of 32 London boroughs and the City of London. Councillors are elected by the first-past-the-post system in single-member wards or by the multi-member plurality system in multi-member wards.[119] DELL Vostro 3550 Laptop Keyboard For local government purposes, Scotland is divided into 32 council areas, with wide variation in both size and population. The cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee are separate council areas, as is the Highland Council which includes a third of Scotland's area but only just over 200,000 people. Local councils are made up of elected councillors, of whom there are currently 1,222;[120]DELL Vostro 3450 Laptop Keyboard they are paid a part-time salary. Elections are conducted by single transferable vote in multi-member wards that elect either three or four councillors. Each council elects a Provost, or Convenor, to chair meetings of the council and to act as a figurehead for the area. Councillors are subject to a code of conduct enforced by the Standards Commission for Scotland.[121] The representative association of Scotland's local authorities is the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).[122]HP G56-126NR Laptop Keyboard Local government in Wales consists of 22 unitary authorities. These include the cities of Cardiff, Swansea and Newport which are unitary authorities in their own right.[123] Elections are held every four years under the first-past-the-post system.[124] The most recent elections were held in May 2012, except for theIsle of Anglesey. The Welsh Local Government Association represents the interests of local authorities in Wales.[125]SONY VAIO VGN-FS215B Laptop Keyboard Local government in Northern Ireland has since 1973 been organised into 26 district councils, each elected by single transferable vote. Their powers are limited to services such as collecting waste, controlling dogs, and maintaining parks and cemeteries.[126] On 13 March 2008 the executive agreed on proposals to create 11 new councils and replace the present system.[127] The next local elections were postponed until 2011 to facilitate this.[128]SONY VAIO VGN-CS31S/V Laptop Keyboard The United Kingdom has sovereignty over seventeen territories which do not form part of the United Kingdom itself: fourteen British Overseas Territories[131] and three Crown Dependencies.[132]SONY 148096222 Laptop Keyboard The fourteen British Overseas Territories are: Anguilla; Bermuda; the British Antarctic Territory; the British Indian Ocean Territory; the British Virgin Islands; the Cayman Islands; the Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; the Turks and Caicos Islands; the Pitcairn Islands; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; and the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.[133] British claims in Antarctica are not universally recognised.[134]Collectively Britain's overseas territories encompass an approximate land area of 667,018 square miles (1,727,570 km2) and a population of approximately 260,000 people.[135] They are the remnants of the British Empire and several have specifically voted to remain British territories (Bermuda in 1995 and Gibraltar in 2002).[136] TOSHIBA Satellite L750-ST4N02 Laptop Keyboard The Crown Dependencies are British possessions of the Crown, as opposed to overseas territories of the UK.[137] They comprise the Channel Island Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea. Being independently administered jurisdictions they do not form part of the United Kingdom or of the European Union, although the UK government manages their foreign affairs and defence and the UK Parliament has the authority to legislate on their behalf. The power to pass legislation affecting the islands ultimately rests with their own respective legislative assemblies, with the assent of the Crown (Privy Council or, in the case of the Isle of Man, in certain circumstances the Lieutenant-Governor).[138] Since 2005 each Crown dependency has had a Chief Minister as its head of government.[139]SONY VAIO VGN-N21S/W Laptop Keyboard The United Kingdom is a unitary state under a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state of the UK as well as of fifteen other independent Commonwealth countries. The monarch has "the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn".[140] The United Kingdom is one of only four countries in the world to have an uncodified constitution.[141][nb 8] TheConstitution of the United Kingdom thus consists mostly of a collection of disparate written sources, Compaq Presario CQ71-401SA Laptop Keyboard including statutes, judge-madecase law and international treaties, together with constitutional conventions. As there is no technical difference between ordinary statutes and "constitutional law" the UK Parliament can perform "constitutional reform" simply by passing Acts of Parliament and thus has the political power to change or abolish almost any written or unwritten element of the constitution. However, no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.[142] APPLE A1181 Laptop Keyboard Government Main article: Government of the United Kingdom The UK has a parliamentary government based on the Westminster system that has been emulated around the world—a legacy of the British Empire. The parliament of the United Kingdom that meets in the Palace of Westminster has two houses; an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords. All bills passed are given Royal Assent before becoming law. HP Mini 210-2030ez Keyboard The position of prime minister, the UK's head of government,[143] belongs to the member of parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, usually the leader of the largest political party in that chamber. The prime minister chooses a cabinet and they are formally appointed by the monarch to form Her Majesty's Government. By convention, the Queen respects the prime minister's decisions of government.[144]Compaq Presario CQ71-314SA Keyboard The cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister's party in both legislative houses, and mostly from the House of Commons, to which they are responsible. Executive power is exercised by the prime minister and cabinet, all of whom are sworn into the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, and become Ministers of the Crown. TheRt. Hon. David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, heads a coalition with the UK's third party, the Liberal Democrats. DELL R811H Keyboard Cameron has been Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service since 11 May 2010.[145] For elections to the House of Commons, the UK is currently divided into 650 constituencies[146] with each electing a single member of parliament by simple plurality. General elections are called by the monarch when the prime minister so advises. SONY VAIO VGN-NR21Z/S Keyboard [147] The UK's three major political parties are the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. During the 2010 general election these three parties won 622 out of 650 seats available in the House of Commons.[148][149] Most of the remaining seats were won by parties that only contest elections in one part of the UK: the Scottish National Party (Scotland only); Plaid Cymru (Wales only); and the Democratic Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Ulster Unionist Party, and Sinn Féin (Northern Ireland only, though Sinn Féin also contests elections in the Republic of Ireland). HP Pavilion dv6-2170sl Keyboard In accordance with party policy, no elected Sinn Féin member of parliament has ever attended the House of Commons to speak on behalf of their constituents because of the requirement to take an oath of allegiance to the monarch. The current five Sinn Féin MPs have, however, made use of offices and other facilities available at Westminster.[150] For elections to the European Parliament the UK currently has 72 MEPs, elected in 12 multi-memberconstituencies.[151]SONY VAIO VGN-CR31S Keyboard Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have their own devolved government or executive, led by a First Minister (or, in the case of Northern Ireland, a diarchal First Minister and deputy First Minister), and a devolved unicameral legislature. However, England, the largest country of the United Kingdom, has no such devolved executive or legislature and is administered and legislated for directly by the UK government and parliament on all issues. This situation has given rise to the so-called West Lothian question which concerns the fact that MPs from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can vote, sometimes decisively,[152] on matters that only affect England.[153]SONY VAIO VGN-NR21Z/S Keyboard The Scottish Government and Parliament have wide-ranging powers over any matter that has not been specifically 'reserved' to the UK parliament, including education, healthcare, Scots law and local government.[154] At the 2011 elections the SNP won re-election and achieved an overall majority in the Scottish parliament, with its leader, Alex Salmond, as First Minister of Scotland.[155][156] In 2012, the UK and Scottish governments signed the Edinburgh Agreement setting out the terms for a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014. DELL XPS M1730 Keyboard SONY Vaio PCG-K86P Keyboard The Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales have more limited powers than those devolved to Scotland.[157] The Assembly is able to legislate on devolved matters through Acts of the Assembly, which require no prior consent from Westminster. The 2011 elections resulted in a minority Labour administration led by Carwyn Jones.[158]TOSHIBA Satellite L775D-S7305 Keyboard The Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly have powers similar to those already devolved to Scotland. The Executive is led by a diarchy representing unionist and nationalist members of the Assembly. Currently, Peter Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party) and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) are First Minister and deputy First Minister respectively.[159]SONY VAIO VGN-FS115M Keyboard The UK does not have a codified constitution and constitutional matters are not among the powers devolved to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Under the doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty, the UK Parliament could, in theory, therefore, abolish the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly or Northern Ireland Assembly.[160][161] Indeed, in 1972, the UK Parliament unilaterally prorogued the Parliament of Northern Ireland, SONY VAIO VGN-FS630W Keyboard setting a precedent relevant to contemporary devolved institutions.[162] In practice, it would be highly unlikely that the UK Parliament would ever abolish devolution, given the political constraints created by referendum decisions.[163] The political constraints placed upon the UK Parliament's power to interfere with devolution in Northern Ireland are even greater than in relation to Scotland and Wales, given that devolution in Northern Ireland rests upon an international agreement with the Government of Ireland.[164]SONY VAIO VGN-CR520E Keyboard The United Kingdom does not have a single legal system, as Article 19 of the 1706 Treaty of Union provided for the continuation of Scotland's separate legal system.[165] Today the UK has three distinct systems of law: English law, Northern Ireland law and Scots law. A new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom came into being in October 2009 to replace the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords.[166][167] The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, including the same members as the Supreme Court, is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown Dependencies.[168]DELL Inspiron 8500 Keyboard Both English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law are based on common-law principles.[169] The essence of common law is that, subject to statute, the law is developed by judges in courts, applying statute, precedent and common sense to the facts before them to give explanatory judgements of the relevant legal principles, which are reported and binding in future similar cases (stare decisis).[170] The courts of England and Wales are headed by the Senior Courts of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, SONY VAIO VGN-CR520E Keyboard the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land for both criminal and civil appeal cases in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and any decision it makes is binding on every other court in the same jurisdiction, often having a persuasive effect in other jurisdictions.[171]HP G62-b20ES Keyboard Scots law is a hybrid system based on both common-law and civil-law principles. The chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases,[172] and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases.[173] The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom serves as the highest court of appeal for civil cases under Scots law.[174] Sheriff courts deal with most civil and criminal cases including conducting criminal trials with a jury, known as sheriff solemn court, or with a sheriff and no jury, known as sheriff summary Court.[175] The Scots legal system is unique in having three possible verdicts for a criminal trial: "guilty", "not guilty" and "not proven". Both "not guilty" and "not proven" result in an acquittal with no possibility of retrial.[176]DELL JVT97 Keyboard Crime in England and Wales increased in the period between 1981 and 1995, though since that peak there has been an overall fall of 48% in crime from 1995 to 2007/08,[177] according to crime statistics. The prison population of England and Wales has almost doubled over the same period, to over 80,000, giving England and Wales the highest rate of incarceration in Western Europe at 147 per 100,000.[178] Her Majesty's Prison Service, which reports to the Ministry of Justice, manages most of the prisons within England and Wales. Crime in Scotland fell to its lowest recorded level for 32 years in 2009/10, HP Pavilion G60-230 Keyboard  falling by ten percent.[179] At the same time Scotland's prison population, at over 8,000,[180] is at record levels and well above design capacity.[181] The Scottish Prison Service, which reports to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, manages Scotland's prisons. In 2006 a report by the Surveillance Studies Network found that the UK had the highest level of mass surveillance among industrialised western nations.[182]HP Pavilion dv6-2112sa Keyboard The UK is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a member of NATO, the Commonwealth of Nations, G7, G8,G20, the OECD, the WTO, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and is a member state of the European Union. The UK is said to have a "Special Relationship" with the United States[183][184] and a close partnership with France—the "Entente cordiale"—and shares nuclear weapons technology with both countries. The UK is also closely linked with the Republic of Ireland; the two countries share a Common Travel Area.[185] Britain's global presence and influence is further amplified through its trading relations, foreign investments, official development assistance and military engagements.[186]HP pavilion DV7-1000 Keyboard The armed forces of the UK are also sometimes known as Her Majesty's Armed Forces or the Armed Forces of the Crown.[187] They consist of three professional service branches: the Naval Service(including the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary), the British Army, and theRoyal Air Force.[188] The forces are managed by the Ministry of Defence and controlled by theDefence Council, chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence. The Commander-in-Chief is theBritish monarch,[189] Elizabeth II, to whom members of the forces swear an oath of allegiance. HP 9J.N0Y82.H01 Keyboard According to various sources, including the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the Ministry of Defence, the United Kingdom has the fourth-highest military expenditure in the world. Total defence spending currently accounts for around 2.3 – 2.6% of total national GDP.[190]HP 516884-001 Keyboard The Armed Forces are charged with protecting the UK and its overseas territories, promoting the UK's global security interests and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. They are active and regular participants in NATO, including the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, as well as the Five Power Defence Arrangements, RIMPAC and other worldwide coalition operations. Overseas garrisons and facilities are maintained in Ascension Island, Belize, Brunei, Canada, Cyprus, Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands, Germany,Gibraltar, Kenya and Qatar.[191]HP pavilion DV7-1000 Keyboard The Royal Navy is a prominent blue-water navy, currently one of only three world wide, with the French Navy and the United States Navy being the other two.[192] As well as being responsible for delivering the UK's Nuclear Deterrent via the UK Trident programmeand four Vanguard class submarines, the Royal Navy operates a large operational fleet of ships, including an aircraft carrier, ahelicopter carrier, landing platform docks, nuclear fleet submarines, guided missile destroyers, frigates, mine-countermeasure vessels and patrol vessels. In the near future two new aircraft carriers, SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Keyboard HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales will enter service in the Royal Navy. The United Kingdom Special Forces, such as the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, provide troops trained for quick, mobile, military responses in counter-terrorism, land, maritime and amphibious operations, often where secrecy or covert tactics are required. HP 516884-001 Keyboard Historically, the British armed forces played a key role in establishing the British Empire as the dominant world power in the 19th century. British forces have seen action in a number of major wars, such as the Seven Years' War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, World War I and World War II—as well as many colonial conflicts. Through its military strength, Britain has often been able to decisively influence world events. Since the end of the British Empire, the UK has nonetheless remained a major military power. HP Pavilion G6-1B97CL Keyboard The British military is among the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the world. Recent defence policy has a stated assumption that "the most demanding operations" will be undertaken as part of a coalition.[193] Setting aside the intervention in Sierra Leone, recent UK military operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and, most recently, Libya, have followed this approach. The last time the British military fought alone was the Falklands War of 1982. TOSHIBA Satellite L755-S5364 Keyboard The UK has a partially regulated market economy.[194] Based on market exchange rates the UK is today the sixth-largest economy in the world and the third-largest in Europe after Germany and France, having fallen behind France for the first time in over a decade in 2008.[195] HM Treasury, led by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is responsible for developing and executing the British government's public finance policy and economic policy. SONY V072078BS1 Keyboard The Bank of England is the UK's central bank and is responsible for issuing the nation's currency, the pound sterling. Banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland retain the right to issue their own notes, subject to retaining enough Bank of England notes in reserve to cover their issue. Pound sterling is the world's third-largest reserve currency (after the U.S. Dollar and the Euro).[196] Since 1997 the Bank of England'sMonetary Policy Committee, headed by the Governor of the Bank of England, has been responsible for setting interest rates at the level necessary to achieve the overall inflation target for the economy that is set by the Chancellor each year.[197]HP Pavilion dv4-1133tx Keyboard The UK service sector makes up around 73% of GDP.[198] London is one of the three "command centres" of the global economy(alongside New York City and Tokyo),[199] is the world's largest financial centre alongside New York,[200][201][202] and has thelargest city GDP in Europe.[203] Edinburgh is also one of the largest financial centres in Europe.[204] Tourism is very important to the British economy and, with over 27 million tourists arriving in 2004, the United Kingdom is ranked as the sixth major tourist destination in the world[205] and London has the most international visitors of any city in the world.[206] The creative industries accounted for 7% GVA in 2005 and grew at an average of 6% per annum between 1997 and 2005.[207]SAMSUNG NP-N150-KA03 Keyboard The Industrial Revolution started in the UK[208] with an initial concentration on the textile industry, followed by other heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining, and steelmaking.[209][210] The empire was exploited as an overseas market for British products, allowing the UK to dominate international trade in the 19th century. As other nations industrialised, coupled with economic decline after two world wars, the United Kingdom began to lose its competitive advantage and heavy industry declined, by degrees, throughout the 20th century. Manufacturing remains a significant part of the economy but accounted for only 16.7% of national output in 2003.[211]SAMSUNG Q320 Keyboard The automotive industry is a significant part of the UK manufacturing sector and employs over 800,000 people, with a turnover of some £52 billion, generating £26.6 billion of exports.[212] The aerospace industry of the UK is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry depending upon the method of measurement and has an annual turnover of around £20 billion.[213][214][215] The pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in the UK economy and the country has the third highest share of global pharmaceutical R&D expenditures (after the United States and Japan).[216][217]SAMSUNG NP-N145-JP03 Keyboard Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 1.6% of the labour force (535,000 workers).[218] Around two-thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one-third to arable crops. Farmers are subsidised by the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. The UK retains a significant, though much reduced fishing industry. It is also rich in a number of natural resources including coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica and an abundance of arable land. ACER Aspire 5810T Keyboard In the final quarter of 2008 the UK economy officially entered recession for the first time since 1991.[219] Unemploymentincreased from 5.2% in May 2008 to 7.6% in May 2009 and by January 2012 the unemployment rate among 18 to 24-year-olds had risen from 11.9% to 22.5%, the highest since current records began in 1992.[220][221] Total UK government debt rose from 44.4% of GDP in 2007 to 82.9% of GDP in 2011.[222] In February 2013, the UK lost its top AAA credit rating for first time since 1978.[223]HP G42-459TX Keyboard The poverty line in the UK is commonly defined as being 60% of the

median household income.[nb 9] In 2007–2008 13.5 million people, or 22% of the population, lived below this line. This is a higher level of relative poverty than all but four other EU members.[224] In the same year 4.0 million children, 31% of the total, lived in households below the poverty line after housing costs were taken into account. This is a decrease of 400,000 children since 1998–1999.[225] The UK imports 40% of its food supplies.[226]HP 597635-001 Keyboard Science and technology England and Scotland were leading centres of the Scientific Revolution from the 17th century[227] and the United Kingdom led the Industrial Revolution from the 18th century,[208] and has continued to produce scientists and engineers credited with important advances.[228] Major theorists from the 17th and 18th centuries include Isaac Newton, whose laws of motion and illumination ofgravity have been seen as a keystone of modern science,[229] from the 19th century Charles Darwin, TOSHIBA NSK-T4N01 Keyboard whose theory of evolution bynatural selection was fundamental to the development of modern biology, and James Clerk Maxwell, who formulated classicalelectromagnetic theory, and more recently Stephen Hawking, who has advanced major theories in the fields of cosmology, quantum gravity and the investigation of black holes.[230] Major scientific discoveries from the 18th century include hydrogen by Henry Cavendish,[231] from the 20th century penicillin by Alexander Fleming,[232]SAMSUNG NP-N102-JA01DX Keyboard and the structure of DNA, by Francis Crick and others.[233] Major engineering projects and applications by people from the UK in the 18th century include the steam locomotive, developed by Richard Trevithick and Andrew Vivian,[234] from the 19th century the electric motor by Michael Faraday, the incandescent light bulb by Joseph Swan,[235Compaq 6720s Keyboard ] and the first practical telephone, patented by Alexander Graham Bell,[236] and in the 20th century the world's first working television system by John Logie Baird and others,[237] the jet engine by Frank Whittle, the basis of the modern computer by Alan Turing, and the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee.[238] Scientific research and development remains important in British universities, with many establishing science parks to facilitate production and co-operation with industry.[239] FUJITSU Amilo Mini Ui 3520 Keyboard Between 2004 and 2008 the UK produced 7% of the world's scientific research papers and had an 8% share of scientific citations, the third and second highest in the world (after the United States and China, and the United States, respectively).[240] Scientific journals produced in the UK include Nature, the British Medical Journal and The Lancet.[241]HP 640436-001 Keyboard A radial road network totals 29,145 miles (46,904 km) of main roads, 2,173 miles (3,497 km) of motorways and 213,750 miles (344,000 km) of paved roads.[100] In 2009 there were a total of 34 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain.[244]HP 597635-001 Keyboard The UK has a railway network of 10,072 miles (16,116 km) in Great Britain and 189 miles (303 km) in Northern Ireland. Railways in Northern Ireland are operated by NI Railways, a subsidiary of state-owned Translink. In Great Britain, theBritish Rail network was privatised between 1994 and 1997. Network Rail owns and manages most of the fixed assets (tracks, signals etc.). About 20 privately owned Train Operating Companies (including state owned East Coast), operate passenger trains and carry over 18,000 passenger trains daily. There are also some 1,000 freight trains in daily operation.[100] The UK government is to spend £30 billion on a new high-speed railway line, HS2, to be operational by 2025.[245]SONY VGN-FE550G Keyboard In the year from October 2009 to September 2010 UK airports handled a total of 211.4 million passengers.[246] In that period the three largest airports were London Heathrow Airport (65.6 million passengers), Gatwick Airport (31.5 million passengers) and London Stansted Airport (18.9 million passengers).[246] London Heathrow Airport, located 15 miles (24 km) west of the capital, has the most international passenger traffic of any airport in the world[242][243] and is the hub for the UK flag carrier British Airways, as well as BMIand Virgin Atlantic.[247]HP 605344-001 Keyboard In 2006 the UK was the world's ninth-largest consumer of energy and the 15th largest producer.[248] The UK is home to a number of large energy companies, including two of the six oil and gas "supermajors" – BP and Royal Dutch Shell – and BG Group.[249][250] In 2011, 40% of the UK's electricity was produced by gas, 30% by coal, 19% by nuclear power and 4.2% by wind, hydro, biofuels and wastes.[251]DELL INSPIRON 1464 Keyboard In 2009 the UK produced 1.5 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of oil and consumed 1.7 million bbl/d.[252] Production is now in decline and the UK has been a net importer of oil since 2005.[252] As of 2010 the UK has around 3.1 billion barrels of provencrude oil reserves, the largest of any EU member state.[252] In 2009, 66.5% of the UK's oil supply was imported.[253]HP Pavilion DV7-3065dx Keyboard In 2009 the UK was the 13th largest producer of natural gas in the world and the largest producer in the EU.[254] Production is now in decline and the UK has been a net importer of natural gas since 2004.[254] In 2009, half of British gas was supplied from imports and this is expected to increase to at least 75% by 2015, as domestic reserves are depleted.[251]HP 516884-001 Keyboard Coal production played a key role in the UK economy in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the mid-1970s, 130 million tonnes of coal was being produced annually, not falling below 100 million tonnes until the early 1980s. During the 1980s and 1990s the industry was scaled back considerably. In 2011, the UK produced 18.3 million tonnes of coal.[255] In 2005 it had proven recoverable coal reserves of 171 million tons.[255] The UK Coal Authority has stated there is a potential to produce between 7 billion tonnes and 16 billion tonnes of coal through underground coal gasification (UCG) or 'fraking',[256] and that, based on current UK coal consumption, such reserves could last between 200 and 400 years.[257] However, environmental and social concerns have been raised over chemicals getting into the water table and minor earthquakes damaging homes.[258][259]SONY VAIO VGN-FW180FU Keyboard In the late 1990s, nuclear power plants contributed around 25% of total annual electricity generation in the UK, but this has gradually declined as old plants have been shut down and ageing-related problems affect plant availability. In 2012, the UK had 16 reactors normally generating about 19% of its electricity. All but one of the reactors will be retired by 2023. Unlike Germany and Japan, the UK intends to build a new generation of nuclear plants from about 2018.[251]HP G42-164LA Keyboard DELL Latitude E5410 Keyboard DELL Latitude D531 Keyboard

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