About United Kingdom [ Country ]

Here we've distilled information and facts from various sources about the location, size, population, geography, transport, climate, economy, history, government, law, and so on, of United Kingdom; into a view that makes sense for a traveller to, or within, this country.

Location

Western Europe, islands including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, northwest of France

Climate

Temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast

Terrain

Mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to rolling plains in east and southeast

Elevation

lowest point: The Fens -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m

Geo Notes

Lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters

Approved Official Names

conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; note - Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales
conventional short form: United Kingdom
abbreviation: UK

Capital City

name: London
geographic coordinates: 51 30 N, 0 10 W
time difference: UTC 0
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
note: applies to the United Kingdom proper, not to its overseas dependencies or territories

Administrative Divisions

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

Natuaral Hazards

Winter windstorms; floods

Environmental Issues

Continues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction from 1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target and move toward a domestic goal of a 20% cut in emissions by 2010); by 2005 the government reduced the amount of industrial and commercial waste disposed of in landfill sites to 85% of 1998 levels and recycled or composted at least 25% of household waste, increasing to 33% by 2015

Life Expectancy

total population: 79.92 years
male: 77.84 years
female: 82.11 years (2010 est.)

Sex Ratio

at birth: 1.052 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.76 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2010 est.)

Languages Spoken

English
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)

Religions Practiced

Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none 23.1% (2001 census)

Legal System

Based on common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; has nonbinding judicial review of Acts of Parliament under the Human Rights Act of 1998; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

Dependent Areas

Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands

National Holiday

the UK does not celebrate one particular national holiday

Illicit Drugs

Producer of limited amounts of synthetic drugs and synthetic precursor chemicals; major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin, Latin American cocaine, and synthetic drugs; money-laundering center

Telephone System

general assessment: technologically advanced domestic and international system
domestic: equal mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optic systems
international: country code - 44; numerous submarine cables provide links throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and US; satellite earth stations - 10 Intelsat (7 Atlantic Ocean and 3 Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and 1 Eutelsat; at least 8 large international switching centers

Broadcast Media

Public service broadcaster BBC is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world; BBC operates multiple TV networks with regional and local TV service; a mixed system of public and commercial TV broadcasters along with satellite and cable systems provide access to hundreds of TV stations throughout the world; BBC operates multiple national, regional, and local radio networks with multiple transmission sites; a large number of commercial radio stations as well as satellite radio services are available (2008)

Background

The United Kingdom has historically played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith in the 19th century, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars and the Irish republic withdraw from the union. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy. The UK is also an active member of the EU, although it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999. The latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process, but devolution was fully completed in March 2010.

Economy Overview

The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quintet of trillion dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades, the government has greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. 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 and the UK became a net importer of energy in 2005. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance. Since emerging from recession in 1992, Britain's economy enjoyed the longest period of expansion on record during which time growth outpaced most of Western Europe. In 2008, however, the global financial crisis hit the economy particularly hard, due to the importance of its financial sector. Sharply declining home prices, high consumer debt, and the global economic slowdown compounded Britain's economic problems, pushing the economy into recession in the latter half of 2008 and prompting the BROWN government to implement a number of measures to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial markets; these include nationalizing parts of the banking system, cutting taxes, suspending public sector borrowing rules, and moving forward public spending on capital projects. Public finances, weak before the economic slowdown, deteriorated markedly during 2009, as did employment. The Bank of England periodically coordinates interest rate moves with the European Central Bank, but Britain remains outside the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

National Anthem

name: "God Save the Queen"
lyrics/music: unknown
note: in use since 1745; by tradition, the song serves as both the national and royal anthem of the United Kingdom; 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

United Kingdom location map
Size

total: 243,610 sq km
land: 241,930 sq km
water: 1,680 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands

United Kingdom flag
Population

62,348,447 (July 2010 est.)

Nationality

noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)
adjective: British

Ethnic Groups

white (of which English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%, Northern Irish 2.9%) 92.1%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6% (2001 census)

HIV/AIDS Rate

0.2% (2007 est.)

Independence Date

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 and Scotland as Great Britain)

Government Type

Constitutional monarchy and Commonwealth realm

Voting Rights

18 years of age; universal

Internet Users

48.755 million (2008)

Internet Hosts

7.03 million (2010)

Internet Country Code

.uk

Number Airports

505 (2010)

Number Paved Airports

total: 306
over 3,047 m: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 32
1,524 to 2,437 m: 124
914 to 1,523 m: 77
under 914 m: 64 (2010)

Number Heliports

11 (2010)

Railways

total: 16,454 km
broad gauge: 303 km 1.600-m gauge (in Northern Ireland)
standard gauge: 16,151 km 1.435-m gauge (5,248 km electrified) (2008)

Roadways

total: 394,428 km
paved: 394,428 km (includes 3,519 km of expressways) (2009)

Inland Waterways

3,200 km (620 km used for commerce) (2008)

Ports & Terminals

Dover, Felixstowe, Immingham, Liverpool, London, Southampton, Teesport (England); Forth Ports, Hound Point (Scotland); Milford Haven (Wales)

National Budget

revenues: $881.7 billion
expenditures: $1.126 trillion (2009 est.)

Account Balance

-$23.65 billion (2009 est.)
-$41.16 billion (2008 est.)

Exchange Rates

British pounds (GBP) per US dollar - 0.6494 (2009), 0.5302 (2008), 0.4993 (2007), 0.5418 (2006), 0.5493 (2005)

Inflation Rate

2.2% (2009 est.)
3.6% (2008 est.)

Main Industries

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

Agricultural Products

Cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish

Labor Force

31.37 million (2009 est.)

Main Occupations

agriculture: 1.4%
industry: 18.2%
services: 80.4% (2006 est.)

Unemployment Rate

7.6% (2009 est.)
5.6% (2008 est.)

GDP (USD Parity)

$2.123 trillion (2009 est.)
$2.234 trillion (2008 est.)
$2.237 trillion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP Per Capita

$34,200 (2009 est.)
$36,200 (2008 est.)
$36,500 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

Family Income Percent

lowest 10%: 2.1%
highest 10%: 28.5% (1999)

Family Income Gini

34 (2005)
36.8 (1999)

Below Poverty

14% (2006 est.)