The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the northwestern coast of the European mainland. The UK includes the island of Great Britain, the northeastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. Otherwise, the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the southwest, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The total area of the UK is 94,000 square miles (240,000 km2).
The UK is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The UK consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively.
London, a global city and financial centre. Other major cities include Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester.
Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution. The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defense and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The UK's current name was adopted in 1927 to reflect the change. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's landmass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.
The UK is currently the world's 6th-largest economy by nominal GDP, and currently the 9th-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). It has a high-income economy and a very high human development index rating, currently ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialized country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognized nuclear weapons state and is currently 6th in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
The UK is a leading member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It was a member of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC) for 47 years, between 1 January 1973 and withdrawal on 31 January 2020 known as Brexit.
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