The UK is an abbreviation for the United Kingdom; however, the formal name of the country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK lies within the North Atlantic Ocean with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the South, the Celtic Sea to the south-southwest, and the Irish Sea between the Island of Great Britain and Ireland. The total area of the country is 243,610 km2, of which 241,930 km2 is land and 1,680 km2 is water. The only land boundary of the UK (443 km) is between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Its land use is 71.0% agriculture, 11.9% forest, and 17.1% other use.

People and Society

In July 2017, the population of the UK was 64,769,452, and the ethnic makeup of the country was White (87.2%), Asian (4.2%), Black (3.0%), mixed (2.0%), and other (3.6%). The religions of the residents were Christian (59.5%), Muslim (4.4%), Hindu (1.3%), other (2.0%), unspecified (7.2%), and none (25.6%). Population centers include London, Manchester, and Liverpool in England, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in Scotland, Cardiff in Wales, and Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Government

The UK government is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy with its capital in London, England. The four countries in the UK are England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. England’s administrative divisions are comprised 27 two-tier counties, 32 London boroughs and the city of London/ Greater London, 36 different metropolitan districts, and 56 unitary authorities. Northern Ireland has five borough councils, four district councils, and two city councils. Scotland has 32 council areas, and Wales has 22 unitary authorities.

Executive Branch of Government

Queen Elizabeth II is the Chief of State, and the Heir Apparent is Prince Charles, son of the Queen. The Head of Government is Prime Minister Theresa May. Following a legislative election, the head of the majority party or the majority coalition becomes the prime minister. The prime minister appoints the cabinet.

Legislative Branch of Government

The legislative branch has a bicameral parliament with the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The membership of the House of Lords is not fixed. As of December 2016, there were 809 lords, 692 life peers, 91 hereditary peers, and 26 members of clergy. The monarch, on the advice of the prime minister, appoints members to the House of Lords. However, the House of Lords Assignment Commission recommends non-party political members. There are elections to replace vacancies in the hereditary peerage. The work of the House of Lords includes making laws, in-depth consideration of public policy, and holding the government to account. Both houses must consider all bills before they become law.

The House of Commons has 650 seats. Members serve 5-year terms after election by their single-constituencies. The House of Commons participates in lawmaking and initiates bills to raise or spend public money. Commons committees examine government policy and wider topics of the economy.

Judicial Branch of Government

The highest court is the Supreme Court, which has 12 justices including the court president and deputy president. An independent committee of judicial commissions recommends potential justices to the prime minister, and the monarch appoints them to life terms. There are subordinate courts that differ in the four UK countries.

Economy

In 2017, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was $2.88 trillion in purchasing power parity and $43,600 per capita. The GDP composition was agriculture (0.6%), industry (19.0%), and services (80.4%). Exports were $436.5 billion, and export commodities were beverages, chemicals, food, fuels, manufactured goods, and tobacco. Major UK export partners in 2016 were the US (14.8%), Germany (10.7%), France (6.4%), Netherlands (6.2%), Ireland (5.6%), Switzerland (4.6%), and China (4.4%). Imports, in 2017, were $602.5 billion, and import commodities were foodstuffs, fuels, machinery, and manufactured goods. Major UK import partners in 2016 were Germany (13.6%), US (9.3%), China (9.2%), Netherlands (7.4%), France (5.2%), Belgium (4.9%), and Switzerland (4.5%).

Communication

The United Kingdom has 33.5 million subscriptions to fixed telephone lines and 78.5 million subscriptions to mobile cellular phones. There are also 61.1 million internet users. The domestic telephone system is a mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay towers, and fiber optic systems. The international telephone system uses several submarine cables, satellite earth stations, and at least eight large international switching centers.

Popular Attractions

Some of the most popular attractions in the UK include Big Ben located at Parliament Tower, the London Eye Observation Wheel, Tower of London & Crown Jewels, Buckingham Palace & the Changing of the Guard, Tower Bridge & its panoramic views, the British Museum, Stonehenge Neolithic Monument, Hyde Park & the Diana Memorial Fountain, Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s Column & Lion Statues, Edinburgh Castle, which is an 11th-century Castle in Scotland, Harrods Shopping Emporium & Food Hall, and the Covent Garden Theatre and Entertainment Area.