Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK
or Britain, is a sovereign state located off the northwestern
coast of continental Europe.
It is an island country, spanning Great Britain, the
northeast part of Ireland, and many small islands.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with a
land border, sharing it with the Republic of Ireland.
Apart from this land border, the UK is surrounded
by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English
Channel and the Irish Sea. The largest island, Great
Britain, is linked to France
by the Channel Tunnel.
The United Kingdom is a unitary state consisting of
four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland
and Wales. It is governed by a parliamentary system
with its seat of government in London, the capital,
but with three devolved national administrations in
Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the capitals of Northern
Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. The UK is
a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II
as the head of state. The Channel Islands and the
Isle of Man are Crown Dependencies and not part of
the UK. The UK has fourteen overseas territories,
all remnants of the British Empire, which at its height
in 1922 encompassed almost a quarter of the world's
land surface, the largest empire in history. British
influence can continue to be observed in the language,
culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies.
Queen Elizabeth II remains the head of the Commonwealth
of Nations and head of state of each of the Commonwealth
The UK is a developed country, with the fifth (nominal
GDP) or sixth (PPP) largest economy in the world.
It was the world's first industrialised country and
the world's foremost power during the 19th and early
20th centuries, but the economic cost of two world
wars and the decline of its empire in the latter half
of the 20th century diminished its leading role in
global affairs. The UK nevertheless remains a major
power with strong economic, cultural, military and
political influence worldwide. It is a nuclear power
and has the second or third highest defence spending
in the world. It is a Member State of the European
Union, holds a permanent seat on the United Nations
Security Council, and is a member of the G8, NATO,
OECD, World Trade Organization and the Commonwealth
of Nations. (Credit: