United Kingdom

 

As the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, 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; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe.

 

Geography:
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
Geographic coordinates: 54 00 N, 2 00 W
People:
Population: 63,047,162 (July 2012 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.3% (male 5,575,119/female 5,301,301)

15-64 years:  66.2% (male 20,979,401/female 20,500,913)

65 years and over: 16.5% (male 4,564,375/female 5,777,253) (2011 est.)

Government:
Country name: 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

Government type: constitutional monarchy
Communications:
Telephones – main lines in use: 33.32 million (2009)
Telephones – mobile cellular: 80.799 million (2009)
Transportation:
Airports: 462 (2012)
Airports – with paved runways: total: 272

over 3,047 m: 7

2,438 to 3,047 m: 31

1,524 to 2,437 m: 93

914 to 1,523 m: 76

under 914 m: 65 (2012)

Military:
Military branches: Army, Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines), Royal Air Force (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 16-33 years of age (officers 17-28) for voluntary military service (with parental consent under 18); women serve in military services, but are excluded from ground combat positions and some naval postings; as of October 2009, women comprised 12.1% of officers and 9% of enlisted personnel in the regular forces; must be citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, or Republic of Ireland; reservists serve a minimum of 3 years, to age 45 or 55; 16 years of age for voluntary military service by Nepalese citizens in the Brigade of Gurkhas; 16-34 years of age for voluntary military service by Papua New Guinean citizens (2009)

Economy:

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 labour force. 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. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance.

Transnational Issues:

In 2002, Gibraltar residents voted overwhelmingly by referendum to reject any “shared sovereignty” arrangement between the UK and Spain; the Government of Gibraltar insists on equal participation in talks between the two countries; Spain disapproves of UK plans to grant Gibraltar greater autonomy; Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory), and its former inhabitants since their eviction in 1965; most Chagossians reside in Mauritius, and in 2001 were granted UK citizenship, where some have since resettled; in May 2006, the High Court of London reversed the UK Government’s 2004 orders of council that banned habitation on the islands; UK rejects sovereignty talks requested by Argentina, which still claims the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory) overlaps Argentine claim and partially overlaps Chilean claim; Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark’s claim that the Faroe Islands’ continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm.