The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is a state in western Europe, usually known simply as the United Kingdom, or less accurately as Great Britain or Britain. The UK was formed by a series of Acts of Union which united the formerly self-governing nations of England, Scotland and Wales together with the province of Northern Ireland, a region on the island of Ireland. (The rest of Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1922).
The United Kingdom, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one quarter of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. The UK is currently weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it has chosen to defer its participation in Euro Zone owing to internal political considerations. Constitutional reform is also a current issue in the UK. The House of Lords has been subjected to ongoing reforms and National assemblies with varying degrees of power were created in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in 1999. Further assemblies for the English regions are also under consideration. According to opinion polls, the monarchy remains generally popular in spite of recent controversies. Support for a British Republic usually fluctuates between 15% and 25% of the population.
In form, the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with legislative power invested in an elected government, and executive power invested in a Cabinet lead by the Prime Minister whose power, though carried out in the monarch's name, is answerable to Parliament and through it the electorate. It is governed from its capital, London (although see below). The UK's current monarch and head of state is Queen Elizabeth II who acceded to the throne in 1952 and was crowned in 1953. In modern Britain, the monarch's rôle is mainly ceremonial, with the UK's real political power being delegated to the Prime Minister by Parliament.
The United Kingdom is a very centralised state, with London's Westminster Parliament holding responsibility for most of the UK's political power. In recent years however, each of the constituent nations, apart from England, has been granted its own government, responsible in varying degree for some internal matters.
Scotland consists of 32 Council Areas. Wales consists of 22 Unitary Authorities, styled as 10 County Boroughs, 9 Counties, and 3 Cities. Northern Ireland is divided into 24 Districts, 2 Cities, and 6 Counties.
There are also a number of different dependencies belonging to the United Kingdom, see Crown colony.
The Isle of Man and Channel Islands are not legally part of the United Kingdom; they are British crown dependencies, though the United Kingdom is responsible for their external affairs.
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is symbolically shared with 15 other sovereign countries that are known as Commonwealth Realms, although Britain has no political or executive power over these independent nations, it retains influence, through long-standing close relations.
Wales is mostly mountainous, the highest peak being Snowdon, at 1,085 m above sea level. North of the mainland is the island of Anglesey. Main and capital city is Cardiff, located in the south of Wales.
Scotland's geography is varied, with lowlands in the south and east and highlands in the north and west, including Source | Copyright