United Kingdom 65,648,100
Northern Ireland 1,862,100 (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 22
noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)
white 87.2%, black/African/Caribbean/black British 3%, Asian/Asian British: Indian 2.3%, Asian/Asian British: Pakistani 1.9%, mixed 2%, other 3.7% (2011 est.)
note: the following are recognized regional languages: Scots (about 30% of the population of Scotland), Scottish Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland), Welsh (about 20% of the population of Wales), Irish (about 10% of the population of Northern Ireland), Cornish (some 2,000 to 3,000 in Cornwall) (2012 est.)
Christian (includes Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 59.5%, Muslim 4.4%, Hindu 1.3%, other 2%, unspecified 7.2%, none 25.7% (2011 est.)
0-14 years: 17.53% (male 5,819,363/female 5,532,123)
15-24 years: 11.9% (male 3,938,643/female 3,770,511)
25-54 years: 40.55% (male 13,387,903/female 12,873,090)
55-64 years: 11.98% (male 3,843,268/female 3,918,244)
65 years and over: 18.04% (male 5,246,475/female 6,439,832) (2017 est.)
total dependency ratio: 55.5
youth dependency ratio: 27.4
elderly dependency ratio: 28.2
potential support ratio: 3.5 (2015 est.)
total: 40.5 years
male: 39.3 years
female: 41.7 years (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 49
0.52% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154
12.1 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 166
9.4 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 55
2.5 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 37
the core of the population lies in and around London, with significant clusters found in central Britain around Manchester and Liverpool, in the Scotish lowlands between Endinburgh and Glasgow, southern Wales in and around Cardiff, and far eastern Northern Ireland centered on Belfast
urban population: 83.1% of total population (2017)
rate of urbanization: 0.82% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)
LONDON (capital) 10.313 million; Manchester 2.646 million; Birmingham 2.515 million; Glasgow 1.223 million; Southampton/Portsmouth 882,000; Liverpool 870,000 (2015)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2017 est.)
note: data represent England and Wales only (2014 est.)
9 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 153
total: 4.3 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.7 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 185
total population: 80.8 years
male: 78.6 years
female: 83.1 years (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
1.88 children born/woman (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 142
note: percent of women aged 16-49 (2008/09)
9.1% of GDP (2014)
country comparison to the world: 38
2.81 physicians/1,000 population (2015)
2.9 beds/1,000 population (2011)
urban: 100% of population
rural: 100% of population
total: 100% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0% of population
total: 0% of population (2015 est.)
urban: 99.1% of population
rural: 99.6% of population
total: 99.2% of population
urban: 0.9% of population
rural: 0.4% of population
total: 0.8% of population (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 36
5.8% of GDP (2014)
country comparison to the world: 36
total: 18 years
male: 17 years
female: 18 years (2014)
female: 12.9% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; note - the island of Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales
conventional short form: United Kingdom
etymology: self-descriptive country name; the designation "Great Britain," in the sense of "Larger Britain," dates back to medieval times and was used to distinguish the island from "Little Britain," or Brittany in modern France; the name Ireland derives from the Gaelic "Eriu," the matron goddess of Ireland (goddess of the land)
parliamentary constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm
geographic coordinates: 51 30 N, 0 05 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: applies to the United Kingdom proper, not to its Crown dependencies or overseas territories
England: 27 two-tier counties, 32 London boroughs and 1 City of London or Greater London, 36 metropolitan districts, 56 unitary authorities (including 4 single-tier counties*)
two-tier counties: Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, North Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Warwickshire, West Sussex, Worcestershire
London boroughs and City of London or Greater London: Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, City of London, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Westminster
metropolitan districts: Barnsley, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Bury, Calderdale, Coventry, Doncaster, Dudley, Gateshead, Kirklees, Knowlsey, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Oldham, Rochdale, Rotherham, Salford, Sandwell, Sefton, Sheffield, Solihull, South Tyneside, St. Helens, Stockport, Sunderland, Tameside, Trafford, Wakefield, Walsall, Wigan, Wirral, Wolverhampton
unitary authorities: Bath and North East Somerset, Blackburn with Darwen, Bedford, Blackpool, Bournemouth, Bracknell Forest, Brighton and Hove, City of Bristol, Central Bedfordshire, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Cornwall, Darlington, Derby, Durham County*, East Riding of Yorkshire, Halton, Hartlepool, Herefordshire*, Isle of Wight*, Isles of Scilly, City of Kingston upon Hull, Leicester, Luton, Medway, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, North Somerset, Northumberland*, Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth, Poole, Portsmouth, Reading, Redcar and Cleveland, Rutland, Shropshire, Slough, South Gloucestershire, Southampton, Southend-on-Sea, Stockton-on-Tees, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Torbay, Warrington, West Berkshire, Wiltshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham, York
Northern Ireland: 5 borough councils, 4 district councils, 2 city councils
borough councils: Antrim and Newtownabbey; Ards and North Down; Armagh, Banbridge, and Craigavon; Causeway Coast and Glens; Mid and East Antrim
district councils: Derry and Strabane; Fermanagh and Omagh; Mid Ulster; Newry, Murne, and Down
city councils: Belfast; Lisburn and Castlereagh
Scotland: 32 council areas
council areas: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, The Scottish Borders, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian
Wales: 22 unitary authorities
unitary authorities: Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea, The Vale of Glamorgan, Torfaen, Wrexham
Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands
12 April 1927 (Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act establishes current name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland); notable earlier dates: 927 (minor English kingdoms united); 3 March 1284 (enactment of the Statute of Rhuddlan uniting England and Wales); 1536 (Act of Union formally incorporates England and Wales); 1 May 1707 (Acts of Union formally unite England, Scotland, and Wales as Great Britain); 1 January 1801 (Acts of Union formally unite Great Britain and Ireland as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland); 6 December 1921 (Anglo-Irish Treaty formalizes partition of Ireland; six counties remain part of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland)
the UK does not celebrate one particular national holiday
history: unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice
amendments: proposed as a “bill” for an “Act of Parliament” by the government, by the House of Commons, or by the House of Lords; passage requires agreement by both houses and by the monarch (Royal Assent); note - recent additions include the Human Rights Act of 1998, the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, and the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015 (2016)
common law system; has nonbinding judicial review of Acts of Parliament under the Human Rights Act of 1998
accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction
citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of the United Kingdom
dual citizenship recognized: yes
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years
18 years of age; universal
chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); Heir Apparent Prince CHARLES, son of the queen (born 14 November 1948)
head of government: Prime Minister Theresa MAY (Conservative) (since 13 July 2016)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister
elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually becomes the prime minister; election last held on 8 June 2017 (next to be held by 5 May 2022)
description: bicameral Parliament consists of the House of Lords (membership not fixed; as of December 2016, 809 lords were eligible to participate in the work of the House of Lords - 692 life peers, 91 hereditary peers, and 26 clergy; members are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister and non-party political members recommended by the House of Lords Appointments Commission), and the House of Commons (650 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority popular vote to serve 5-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier)
elections: House of Lords - no elections; note - in 1999, as provided by the House of Lords Act, elections were held in the House of Lords to determine the 92 hereditary peers who would remain; elections held only as vacancies in the hereditary peerage arise); House of Commons - last held on 8 June 2017 (next to be held by 5 May 2022)
election results: House of Commons - percent of vote by party - Conservative 42.3%, Labor 40.0%, SNP 43.0%, Lib Dems 7.4%, DUP 0.9%, Sinn Fein 0.7%, Plaid Cymru 0.5%,other 0.6%; seats by party - Conservative 317, Labor 262, SNP 35, Lib Dems 12, DUP 10, Sinn Fein 7, Plaid Cymru 4, other 3
highest court(s): Supreme Court (consists of 12 justices including the court president and deputy president); note - the Supreme Court was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and implemented in October 2009, replacing the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom
judge selection and term of office: judge candidates selected by an independent committee of several judicial commissions, followed by their recommendations to the prime minister, and appointed by the monarch; justices appointed for life
subordinate courts: England and Wales - Court of Appeal (civil and criminal divisions); High Court; Crown Court; County Courts; Magistrates' Courts; Scotland - Court of Sessions; Sheriff Courts; High Court of Justiciary; tribunals; Northern Ireland - Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland; High Court; county courts; magistrates' courts; specialized tribunals
Alliance Party (Northern Ireland) [Naomi LONG]
Conservative and Unionist Party [Theresa MAY]
Democratic Unionist Party or DUP (Northern Ireland) [Arlene FOSTER]
Green Party of England and Wales or Greens [Caroline LUCAS and Jonathan BARTLEY]
Labor (Labour) Party [Jeremy CORBYN]
Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) [Sir Vince CABLE]
Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru) [Leanne WOOD]
Scottish National Party or SNP [Nicola STURGEON]
Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) [Gerry ADAMS]
Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland) [Colum EASTWOOD]
Ulster Unionist Party or UUP (Northern Ireland) [Robin SWANN]
UK Independence Party or UKIP [interim leader Gerard BATTEN]
Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Confederation of British Industry
National Farmers' Union
Trades Union Congress
ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Arctic Council (observer), Australia Group, BIS, C, CBSS (observer), CD, CDB, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EITI (implementing country), ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SELEC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNMISS, UNRWA, UNSC (permanent), UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
chief of mission: Ambassador Sir Nigel Kim DARROCH (since 28 January 2016)
chancery: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 588-6500
FAX:  (202) 588-7870
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco
consulate(s): Orlando (FL), San Juan (Puerto Rico)
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert Wood (Woody) JOHNSON IV (since 29 August 2017)
embassy: 24 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6AH; note - a new embassy is scheduled to open in early 2018 in the Nine Elms area of Wandsworth
mailing address: PSC 801, Box 40, FPO AE 09498-4040
telephone:  (0) 20 7499-9000
FAX:  (0) 20 7629-9124
consulate(s) general: Belfast, Edinburgh
blue field with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, and British overseas territories
lion (Britain in general); lion, Tudor rose, oak (England); lion, unicorn, thistle (Scotland); dragon, daffodil, leek (Wales); shamrock, flax (Northern Ireland); national colors: red, white, blue (Britain in general); red, white (England); blue, white (Scotland); red, white, green (Wales)
name: "God Save the Queen"
note: in use since 1745; by tradition, the song serves as both the national and royal anthem of the UK; it is known as either "God Save the Queen" or "God Save the King," depending on the gender of the reigning monarch; it also serves as the royal anthem of many Commonwealth nations
The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 2% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil resources, but its oil and natural gas reserves are declining; the UK has been a net importer of energy since 2005. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, are key drivers of British GDP growth. Manufacturing, meanwhile, has declined in importance but still accounts for about 10% of economic output.
In 2008, the global financial crisis hit the economy particularly hard, due to the importance of its financial sector. Falling home prices, high consumer debt, and the global economic slowdown compounded the UK’s economic problems, pushing the economy into recession in the latter half of 2008 and prompting the then BROWN (Labour) government to implement a number of measures to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial markets. Facing burgeoning public deficits and debt levels, in 2010 the then CAMERON-led coalition government (between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) initiated an austerity program, which has continued under the Conservative government. However, the deficit still remains one of the highest in the G7, standing at 3.6% of GDP as of 2017, and the UK has pledged to lower its corporation tax from 20% to 17% by 2020. The UK had a debt burden of 90.4% GDP at the end of 2017.
The UK’s economy has begun to slow since the referendum vote to leave the EU in June 2016. A sustained depreciation of the British pound has increased consumer and producer prices, weighing on consumer spending without spurring a meaningful increase in exports. The UK has an extensive trade relationship with other EU members through its single market membership and economic observers have warned the exit will jeopardize its position as the central location for European financial services. Prime Minister MAY is seeking a new “deep and special” trade relationship with the EU following the UK’s exit. However, economists doubt that the UK will be able to preserve the benefits of EU membership without the obligations.
$2.88 trillion (2017 est.)
$2.833 trillion (2016 est.)
$2.783 trillion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 10
$2.565 trillion (2016 est.)
1.7% (2017 est.)
1.8% (2016 est.)
2.2% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 169
$43,600 (2017 est.)
$43,200 (2016 est.)
$42,700 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 40
13.4% of GDP (2017 est.)
12.6% of GDP (2016 est.)
13% of GDP (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 136
household consumption: 65.3%
government consumption: 19%
investment in fixed capital: 16.6%
investment in inventories: 0.7%
exports of goods and services: 30.1%
imports of goods and services: -31.7% (2017 est.)
cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish
machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, other consumer goods
0.7% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 175
33.5 million (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
services: 83.5% (2014 est.)
4.4% (2017 est.)
4.9% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 62
15% (2013 est.)
lowest 10%: 1.7%
highest 10%: 31.1% (2012)
country comparison to the world: 111
revenues: $984.4 billion
expenditures: $1.076 trillion (2017 est.)
38.4% of GDP (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 43
-3.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 134
90.4% of GDP (2017 est.)
89.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
note: data cover general government debt, and include debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions
country comparison to the world: 26
6 April - 5 April
2.6% (2017 est.)
0.7% (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119
0.25% (31 December 2016)
0.5% (31 December 2015)
country comparison to the world: 138
4.3% (31 December 2017 est.)
4.44% (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 155
$104.8 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$96.15 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
$3.066 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)
$2.778 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
$3.042 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)
$2.785 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9
$3.019 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
$2.903 trillion (31 December 2011 est.)
$3.107 trillion (31 December 2010 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
-$91.42 billion (2017 est.)
-$114.5 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 200
$436.5 billion (2017 est.)
$407.3 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco
US 14.8%, Germany 10.7%, France 6.4%, Netherlands 6.2%, Ireland 5.6%, Switzerland 4.6%, China 4.4% (2016)
$602.5 billion (2017 est.)
$588.4 billion (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs
Germany 13.6%, US 9.3%, China 9.2%, Netherlands 7.4%, France 5.2%, Belgium 4.9%, Switzerland 4.5% (2016)
$135 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$129.6 billion (31 December 2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 19
$8.126 trillion (31 March 2016 est.)
$8.642 trillion (31 March 2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 3
$2.027 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.858 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 4
$1.634 trillion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.611 trillion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6
British pounds (GBP) per US dollar -
0.7836 (2017 est.)
0.738 (2016 est.)
0.738 (2015 est.)
0.607 (2014 est.)
0.6391 (2013 est.)
Coordinates: 54°0′N2°30′W / 54.000°N 2.500°W / 54.000; -2.500
The United Kingdom is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. With a total area of approximately 248,532 square kilometres (95,960 sq mi), the UK occupies the major part of the British Islesarchipelago and includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland and many smaller surrounding islands. The mainland areas lie between latitudes 49°N and 59°N (the Shetland Islands reach to nearly 61°N), and longitudes 8°W to 2°E. The Royal Greenwich Observatory, in South East London, is the defining point of the Prime Meridian.
The UK lies between the North Atlantic and the North Sea, and comes within 35 km (22 mi) of the north-west coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel. It shares a 499 km international land boundary with the Republic of Ireland. The Channel Tunnel bored beneath the English Channel, now links the UK with France.
The British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are covered in their own respective articles, see below.
The total area of the United Kingdom according to the Office for National Statistics is 248,532 square kilometres (95,960 sq mi), comprising the island of Great Britain, the northeastern one-sixth of the island of Ireland (Northern Ireland) and many smaller islands. England is the largest country of the United Kingdom, at 132,938 square kilometres (51,330 sq mi) accounting for just over half the total area of the UK. Scotland at 80,239 square kilometres (30,980 sq mi), is second largest, accounting for about a third of the area of the UK. Wales and Northern Ireland are much smaller, covering 21,225 and 14,130 square kilometres (8,200 and 5,460 sq mi) respectively.
The area of the countries of the United Kingdom is set out in the table below. Information about the area of England, the largest country, is also broken down by region.
∟ South West
|4||Northern Ireland||14,130 km²|
|United Kingdom||248,532 km²|
|Overseas territories||1,727,570 km²|
The British Antarctic Territory, which covers an area of 1,709,400 km2 is geographically the largest of the British Overseas Territories followed by the Falkland Islands which covers an area of 12,173 km2. The remaining twelve overseas territories cover an area 5,997 km2.
Other countries with very similar land areas to the United Kingdom include Guinea (slightly larger), Uganda, Ghana and Romania (all slightly smaller). The UK is the world's 80th largest country by land area and the 10th largest in Europe (if European Russia is included).
The physical geography of the UK varies greatly. England consists of mostly lowland terrain, with upland or mountainous terrain only found north-west of the Tees-Exe line. The upland areas include the Lake District, the Pennines, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The lowland areas are typically traversed by ranges of low hills, frequently composed of chalk, and flat plains. Scotland is the most mountainous country in the UK and its physical geography is distinguished by the Highland Boundary Fault which traverses the Scottish mainland from Helensburgh to Stonehaven. The faultline separates the two distinctively different regions of the Highlands to the north and west, and the Lowlands to the south and east. The Highlands are predominantly mountainous, containing the majority of Scotland's mountainous landscape, while the Lowlands contain flatter land, especially across the Central Lowlands, with upland and mountainous terrain located at the Southern Uplands. Wales is mostly mountainous, though south Wales is less mountainous than north and mid Wales. Northern Ireland consists of mostly hilly landscape and its geography includes the Mourne Mountains as well as Lough Neagh, at 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi), the largest body of water in the UK.
The overall geomorphology of the UK was shaped by a combination of forces including tectonics and climate change, in particular glaciation in northern and western areas.
The tallest mountain in the UK (and British Isles) is Ben Nevis, in the Grampian Mountains, Scotland. The longest river is the River Severn which flows from Wales into England. The largest lake by surface area is Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland, though Scotland's Loch Ness has the largest volume.
See also: Geology of Great Britain and Geology of Ireland
The geology of the UK is complex and diverse, a result of it being subject to a variety of plate tectonic processes over a very extended period of time. Changing latitude and sea levels have been important factors in the nature of sedimentary sequences, whilst successive continental collisions have affected its geological structure with major faulting and folding being a legacy of each orogeny (mountain-building period), often associated with volcanic activity and the metamorphism of existing rock sequences. As a result of this eventful geological history, the UK shows a rich variety of landscapes.
The oldest rocks in the British Isles are the Lewisian gneisses, metamorphic rocks found in the far north west of Scotland and in the Hebrides (with a few small outcrops elsewhere), which date from at least 2,700 Ma (Ma = million years ago). South and east of the gneisses are a complex mixture of rocks forming the North West Highlands and Grampian Highlands in Scotland. These are essentially the remains of folded sedimentary rocks that were deposited between 1,000 Ma and 670 Ma over the gneiss on what was then the floor of the Iapetus Ocean.
At 520 Ma, what is now Great Britain was split between two continents; the north of Scotland was located on the continent of Laurentia at about 20° south of the equator, while the rest of the country was on the continent of Gondwana near the Antarctic Circle. In Gondwana, England and Wales were largely submerged under a shallow sea studded with volcanic islands. The remains of these islands underlie much of central England with small outcrops visible in many places.
About 500 Ma southern Britain, the east coast of North America and south-east Newfoundland broke away from Gondwana to form the continent of Avalonia, which by 440 Ma had drifted to about 30° south. During this period north Wales was subject to volcanic activity. The remains of these volcanoes are still visible, one example of which is Rhobell Fawr dating from 510 Ma. Large quantities of volcanic lava and ash known as the Borrowdale Volcanics covered the Lake District and this can still be seen in the form of mountains such as Helvellyn and Scafell Pike.
Between 425 and 400 Ma Avalonia had joined with the continent of Baltica, and the combined landmass collided with Laurentia at about 20° south, joining the southern and northern halves of Great Britain together. The resulting Caledonian Orogeny produced an Alpine-style mountain range in much of north and west Britain.
The collision between continents continued during the Devonian period, producing uplift and subsequent erosion, resulting in the deposition of numerous sedimentary rock layers in lowlands and seas. The Old Red Sandstone and the contemporary volcanics and marine sediments found in Devon originated from these processes.
Around 360 Ma Great Britain was lying at the equator, covered by the warm shallow waters of the Rheic Ocean, during which time the Carboniferous Limestone was deposited, as found in the Mendip Hills and the Peak District of Derbyshire. Later, river deltas formed and the sediments deposited were colonised by swamps and rain forest. It was in this environment that the Coal Measures were formed, the source of the majority of Britain's extensive coal reserves.
Around 280 Ma the Variscan orogeny mountain-building period occurred, again due to collision of continental plates, causing major deformation in south west England. The general region of Variscan folding was south of an east–west line roughly from south Pembrokeshire to Kent. Towards the end of this period granite was formed beneath the overlying rocks of Devon and Cornwall, now exposed at Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.
By the end of the Carboniferous period the various continents of the Earth had fused to form the super-continent of Pangaea. Britain was located in the interior of Pangea where it was subject to a hot arid desert climate with frequent flash floods leaving deposits that formed beds of red sedimentary rock.
As Pangaea drifted during the Triassic, Great Britain moved away from the equator until it was between 20° and 30° north. The remnants of the Variscan uplands in France to the south were eroded down, resulting in layers of the New Red Sandstone being deposited across central England.
Pangaea began to break up at the start of the Jurassic period. Sea levels rose and Britain drifted on the Eurasian Plate to between 31° and 40° north. Much Britain was under water again, and sedimentary rocks were deposited and can now be found underlying much of England from the Cleveland Hills of Yorkshire to the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. These include sandstones, greensands, ooliticlimestone of the Cotswold Hills, corallian limestone of the Vale of White Horse and the Isle of Portland. The burial of algae and bacteria below the mud of the sea floor during this time resulted in the formation of North Sea oil and natural gas
The modern continents having formed, the Cretaceous saw the formation of the Atlantic Ocean, gradually separating northern Scotland from North America. The land underwent a series of uplifts to form a fertile plain. After 20 million years or so, the seas started to flood the land again until much of Britain was again below the sea, though sea levels frequently changed. Chalk and flints were deposited over much of Great Britain, now notably exposed at the White Cliffs of Dover and the Seven Sisters, and also forming Salisbury Plain.
Between 63 and 52 Ma, the last volcanic rocks in Great Britain were formed. The major eruptions at this time produced the Antrim Plateau, the basaltic columns of the Giant's Causeway and Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.
The Alpine Orogeny that took place in Europe about 50 Ma, was responsible for the folding of strata in southern England, producing the London Basinsyncline, the Weald-Artois Anticline to the south, the North Downs, South Downs and Chiltern Hills.
During the period the North Sea formed, Britain was uplifted. Some of this uplift was along old lines of weakness left from the Caledonian and Variscan Orogenies long before. The uplifted areas were then eroded, and further sediments, such as the London Clay, were deposited over southern England.
The major changes during the last 2 million years were brought about by several recent ice ages. The most severe was the Anglian Glaciation, with ice up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft) thick that reached as far south as London and Bristol. This took place between about 478,000 to 424,000 years ago, and was responsible for the diversion of the River Thames onto its present course. During the most recent Devensian glaciation, which ended a mere 10,000 years ago, the icesheet reached south to Wolverhampton and Cardiff. Among the features left behind by the ice are the fjords of the west coast of Scotland, the U-shaped valleys of the Lake District and erratics (blocks of rock) that have been transported from the Oslo region of Norway and deposited on the coast of Yorkshire.
Amongst the most significant geological features created during the last twelve thousand years are the peat deposits of Scotland, and of coastal and upland areas of England and Wales.
At the present time Scotland is continuing to rise as a result of the weight of Devensian ice being lifted. Southern and eastern England is sinking, generally estimated at 1 mm (1/25 inch) per year, with the London area sinking at double the speed partly due to the continuing compaction of the recent clay deposits.
Mountains and hills
Main article: List of mountains and hills of the United Kingdom
The ten tallest mountains in the UK are all found in Scotland. The highest peaks in each part of the UK are:
The ranges of mountains and hills in the UK include:
- Scotland: Cairngorms, Scottish Highlands, Southern Uplands, Grampian Mountains, Monadhliath Mountains, Ochil Hills, Campsie Fells, Cuillin
- Wales: Brecon Beacons, Cambrian Mountains, Snowdonia, Black Mountains, Preseli Hills
- England: Cheviot Hills, Chilterns, Cotswolds, Dartmoor, Lincolnshire Wolds, Exmoor, Lake District, Malvern Hills, Mendip Hills, North Downs, Peak District, Pennines, South Downs, Shropshire Hills, Yorkshire Wolds
- Northern Ireland: Mourne Mountains, Antrim Plateau, Sperrin Mountains
The lowest point of the UK is in the Fens of East Anglia, in England, parts of which lie up to 4 metres below sea level.
Rivers and lakes
- Main articles
The longest river in the UK is the River Severn (220 mi; 350 km) which flows through both Wales and England.
The longest rivers in the UK contained wholly within each of its constituent nations are:
The largest lakes (by surface area) in the UK by country are:
The deepest lake in the UK is Loch Morar with a maximum depth of 309 metres (Loch Ness is second at 228 metres deep). The deepest lake in England is Wastwater which achieves a depth of 79 metres (259 feet).
Loch Ness is the UK's largest lake in terms of volume.
Main articles:Waterways in the United Kingdom, Canals of Great Britain, Dams and reservoirs in United Kingdom
As a result of its industrial history, the United Kingdom has an extensive system of canals, mostly built in the early years of the Industrial Revolution, before the rise of competition from the railways. The United Kingdom also has numerous dams and reservoirs to store water for drinking and industry. The generation of hydroelectric power is rather limited, supplying less than 2% of British electricity, mainly from the Scottish Highlands.
Main article: Coastline of the United Kingdom
The UK has a coastline which measures about 12,429 km. The heavy indentation of the coastline helps to ensure that no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters.
The UK claims jurisdiction over the continental shelf, as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries, an exclusive fishing zone of 200 nmi (370.4 km; 230.2 mi), and territorial sea of 12 nmi (22.2 km; 13.8 mi).
The geology of the United Kingdom is such that there are many headlands along its coast. A list of headlands of the United Kingdom details many of them.
Main article: List of islands of the United Kingdom
In total, it is estimated that the UK is made up of over one thousand small islands, the majority located off the north and west coasts of Scotland. About 130 of these are inhabited according to the 2001 Census.
The largest islands by country are Lewis and Harris in Scotland (841 square mi), Wales' Anglesey (276 square mi), the Isle of Wight in England (147.09 square mi), and Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland (roughly 6 square mi);
Main article: Climate of the United Kingdom
The climate of the UK is generally temperate, although significant local variation occurs, particularly as a result of altitude and distance from the coast. In general the south of the country is warmer than the north, and the west wetter than the east. Due to the warming influence of the Gulf Stream, the UK is significantly warmer than some other locations at similar latitude, such as Newfoundland.
The prevailing winds are southwesterly, from the North Atlantic Current. More than 50% of the days are overcast. There are few natural hazards, although there can be strong winds and floods, especially in winter.
Average annual rainfall varies from over 3,000 mm (118.1 in) in the Scottish Highlands down to 553 mm (21.8 in) in Cambridge. The county of Essex is one of the driest in the UK, with an average annual rainfall of around 600 mm (23.6 in), although it typically rains on over 100 days per year. In some years rainfall in Essex can be below 450 mm (17.7 in), less than the average annual rainfall in Jerusalem and Beirut.
The highest temperature recorded in the UK was 38.5 °C (101.3 °F) at Brogdale, near Faversham, in the county of Kent, on 10 August 2003. The lowest was −27.2 °C (−17.0 °F) recorded at Braemar in the Grampian Mountains, Scotland, on 11 February 1895 and 10 January 1982 and Altnaharra, also in Scotland, on 30 December 1995.
Main article: Demographics of the United Kingdom
Main article: Politics of the United Kingdom
The UK is governed as a whole by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Of the four countries that make the UK, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved administrations and parliaments/assembly:
England has no devolved system of government[clarification needed]that is, the Parliament of the United Kingdom serves as (and historically was) the English Parliament. It is governed by UK government ministers and legislated for by the UK parliament. Within England, London has a devolved assembly but proposals for elected Regional Assemblies in England were rejected in the first referendum covering North East England. See Government of England.
The UK (specifically, Northern Ireland) has an international land boundary with the Republic of Ireland of 499 km. There is also a boundary between the jurisdiction of France and the UK on the Channel Tunnel.
Main articles: Local government in England, Local government in Scotland, Local government in Wales, and Local government in Northern Ireland
Each part of the UK is subdivided in further local governmental regions:
Historically the UK was divided into counties or shires: administrative areas through which all civil responsibilities of the government were passed. Each county or shire had a county town as its administrative centre and was divided into individual parishes that were defined along ecclesiastic boundaries.
Between 1889 (1890 in Scotland) and 1974, the political boundaries were based on the traditional counties, but due to changes in population centres, the traditional counties became impractical as local government areas in certain highly urbanised areas. The Local Government Act 1972 created a new system of administrative counties, designed to take account of the widely differing populations across different parts of the country.
In the 1990s further population growth led to more political changes on a local level. Unitary authorities were formed across the entirety of Scotland and Wales, and in larger cities in England. Many unpopular administrative counties were also abolished at this time, leading to a mixture of two-tier and single-purpose authorities. Further reorganisations are planned if and when regional assemblies in England are revisited in the future.
Main article: Economic geography of the United Kingdom
The economic geography of the UK reflects not only its current position in the global economy, but its long history both as a trading nation and an imperial power.
The UK led the industrial revolution and its highly urban character is a legacy of this, with all its major cities being current or former centres of various forms of manufacturing. However, this in turn was built on its exploitation of natural resources, especially coal and iron ore.
The UK's primary industry was once dominated by the coal industry, heavily concentrated in the north, the Midlands and south Wales. This is all but gone and the major primary industry is North Sea oil. Its activity is concentrated on the UK Continental Shelf to the north-east of Scotland.
The UK's heavy manufacturing drove the industrial revolution. A map of the major UK cities gives a good picture of where this activity occurred, in particular Belfast, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. Today there is no heavy manufacturing industry in which UK-based firms can be considered world leaders. However, areas of the UK still have a notable manufacturing base, including the Midlands which remains a strong manufacturing centre, and the North West which accounts for 60% of the United Kingdom's manufacturing output. More recently, high technology firms have concentrated largely along the M4 motorway, partly because of access to Heathrow Airport, but also because of agglomeration economies.
Finance and services
Once, every large city had a stock exchange. Now, the UK financial industry is concentrated overwhelmingly in the City of London and Canary Wharf, with back office and administrative operations often dispersed around the south of England. London is one of the world's great financial centres and is usually referred to as a world city. There is also a significant legal and ebusiness industry in Leeds.
The effect of changing economic fortune has contributed to the creation of the so-called North-South divide, in which decaying industrial and ex-industrial areas of Northern England, Scotland and Wales contrast with the wealthy, finance and technology-led southern economy. This has led successive governments to develop regional policy to try to rectify the imbalance. However, this is not to say that the north-south divide is uniform; some of the worst pockets of deprivation can be found in London, whilst parts of Cheshire and North Yorkshire are very wealthy. Nor is the North-South divide limited to the economic sphere; cultural and political divisions weigh heavily too.
Main article: Economy of the United Kingdom
Historically, much of the United Kingdom was forested. Since prehistoric times, man has deforested much of the United Kingdom.
Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanised, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only 1% of the labour force. It contributes around 2% of GDP. Around two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one third to arable crops.
In 1993, it was estimated that land use was:
The UK has a variety of natural resources including:
- Geological: coal, petroleum, natural gas, limestone, chalk, gypsum, silica, rock salt, china clay, iron ore, tin, silver, gold, lead.
- Agricultural: arable land, wheat, barley, sheep
The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Due to the island location of the UK, the country has great potential for generating electricity from wave power and tidal power, although these have not yet been exploited on a commercial basis.
England is one of the most densely populated countries/regions in the world, and the most densely populated major nation in Europe. The high population density (especially in the southeast of England) coupled with a changing climate, is likely to put extreme pressure on the United Kingdom's water resources in the future.
The United Kingdom is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010. By 2015, to recycle or compost at least 33% of household waste. Between 1998-99 and 1999–2000, household recycling increased from 8.8% to 10.3% respectively.
The United Kingdom is a party to many international agreements, including: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands and Whaling.
The UK has signed, but not ratified, the international agreement on Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants.
Geography of dependent territories
- ^Oxford English Dictionary: "British Isles: a geographical term for the islands comprising Great Britain and Ireland with all their offshore islands including the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands."
- ^ abOrdnance Survey of Northern Ireland, 1999
- ^ abMFPP Working Paper No. 2, "The Creation and Consolidation of the Irish Border" by KJ Rankin and published in association with Institute for British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin and Institute for Governance, Queen's University, Belfast (also printed as IBIS working paper no. 48)
- ^"The Countries of the UK". Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original on 8 January 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2017.
- ^"The South West – Key Facts". www.gosw.gov.uk. Government Office for the South West. Archived from the original on 22 March 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^"Facts and Figures about the South East". www.gose.gov.uk. Government Office for the South East. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^"Regional Profile". www.gonw.gov.uk. Government Office for the North West. Archived from the original on 3 May 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^"Regional Profile". www.gowm.gov.uk. Government Office for the West Midlands. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^"Regional Profile". www.gos.gov.uk/gone/. Government Office for the North East. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.
- ^"Our Region". www.gol.gov.uk. Government Office for London. Archived from the original on 20 September 2007. Retrieved 18 April 2007.