Portal:Great Britain
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Portal:Great Britain

The United Kingdom Portal

Flag of the United Kingdom
Coat of Arms for the United Kingdom
Map of the United Kingdom in the British Isles.

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 north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom 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 United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom 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 south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the world's longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major cities include Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and Liverpool.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. 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 defence 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. 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 land mass 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 United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised 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 recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9 per cent of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Featured article

HMS Cardiff in Portsmouth, circa 2005

HMS Cardiff (D108) is a Type 42 destroyer, the third ship of the Royal Navy to be named in honour of the Welsh capital city of Cardiff. She was built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and launched on 22 February 1974. During her career, Cardiff served in the Falklands War, where she shot down the last Argentine aircraft of the conflict and accepted the surrender of a 700-strong garrison in the settlement of Port Howard. During the 1991 Gulf War, her Lynx helicopter sank two Iraqi minesweepers. She later participated in the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq as part of the Royal Navy's constant Armilla patrol; Cardiff thwarted attempts to smuggle oil out of the country, but was not involved in the actual invasion. Cardiff was decommissioned in July 2005, having earned two battle honours for service in the Falklands and Gulf wars. She is currently moored in Portsmouth Harbour, next to sister ship HMS Newcastle. Former servicemen have petitioned for her preservation as a museum ship and local tourist attraction at Cardiff, but her fate remains undecided. (more...)

Featured biography

Emmeline Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) was a political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement. Although she was widely criticised for her militant tactics, her work is recognised as a crucial element in achieving women's suffrage in Britain. She became involved with the Women's Franchise League, which advocated suffrage for women. When that organisation broke apart, she joined the left-leaning Independent Labour Party through her friendship with socialist Keir Hardie. After her husband died in 1898, Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union, an all-women suffrage advocacy organisation dedicated to "deeds, not words". The group quickly became infamous when its members smashed windows and assaulted police officers. Pankhurst, her daughters, and other WSPU activists were sentenced to repeated prison sentences, where they staged hunger strikes to secure better conditions. Eventually arson became a common tactic among WSPU members, and more moderate organisations spoke out against the Pankhurst family. With the advent of World War I, Pankhurst called an immediate halt to militant suffrage activism, in order to support the British government against the "German Peril". They urged women to aid industrial production, and encouraged young men to fight. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982

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Keswick Panorama - Oct 2009.jpg
Photo credit: David Iliff

The town of Keswick is nestled between the fells of Skiddaw and Derwent Water in the Lake District, Cumbria, England. It is shown here from about ¾ of the way to the summit of Walla Crag.

In the news

Wikinews UK

21 August 2019 - 2019 Persian Gulf crisis, Australia-United States relations
Australia announces that it has agreed to join the United States' coalition, along with the United Kingdom and Bahrain, to prevent Iran from targeting ships travelling through the Strait of Hormuz. Australia will deploy a Boeing P-8 Poseidon and a frigate. (The Sydney Morning Herald)
21 August 2019 - China-United Kingdom relations
The Foreign Ministry of China confirms that United Kingdom consulate in Hong Kong employee Simon Cheng, who was reported missing, is administratively detained for 15 days by Shenzhen police. (CNN)
18 August 2019 - Iran-United States relations; United Kingdom-United States relations
Gibraltar authorities reject the request by the U.S. to seize the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1. They argue that EU, not U.S. law, is applicable in Gibraltar. The tanker is also renamed. (Al Arabiya)
15 August 2019 - Iran–United Kingdom relations; Iran–United States relations
Gibraltar says the United States has applied to seize the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, which is being held by the United Kingdom territory for an alleged breach of European Union sanctions against Syria. (Reuters)
The UK releases Grace 1 back to Iran after receiving written assurance that the oil would not be sent to Syria. (BBC)
12 August 2019 - Human rights in Venezuela
Venezuelan activist Tamara Sujú visits London to ask the United Kingdom, and specifically Dominic Raab, to pressure the International Criminal Court to investigate claims of torture and human rights abuses by the Nicolás Maduro government. (The Guardian)

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