Archive: April 2012
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state—the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.The United Kingdom is a unitary state governed under a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary system, with its seat of government in the capital city of London. It is a country in its own right and consists of four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. There are three devolved national administrations, each with varying powers based in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh, the capitals of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland respectively. Associated with the UK, but not constitutionally part of it, are three Crown Dependencies The United Kingdom has fourteen overseas territories These are remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in 1922, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land surface and was the largest empire in history. British influence can still be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former territories.The UK is a developed country and has the world's seventh-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries UK remains a great power with leading economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and its military expenditure ranks third or fourth in the world.The name "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" was introduced in 1927 by the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act to reflect the granting of independence to the Irish Free State in 1922, which left Northern Ireland as the only part of the island of Ireland still within the UK Prior to this, the Acts of Union 1800, that led to the uniting the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801, had given the new state the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Great Britain before 1801 is occasionally referred to as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain"Although the United Kingdom, as a sovereign state, is a country, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are also referred to as countries, whether or not they are sovereign states or have devolved or other self-government The United Kingdom is often referred to as Britain. British government sources frequently use the term as a short form for the United Kingdom,whilst media style guides generally allow its use but point out that the longer term Great Britain refers only to England, Scotland and Wales.
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