The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK or U.K.) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north­eastern 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 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 United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-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. A referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9% of the turnout being in favour of leaving the EU, which is scheduled to take place on or before 31 January 2020. 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).

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Featured article

Westminster Abbey serves as the location of coronations

The Coronation of the British monarch is a ceremony in which the monarch is formally crowned and invested with regalia. The coronation usually takes place several months after the death of the previous monarch, for the coronation is considered a joyous occasion that would be inappropriate when mourning still continues. For example, Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953, having ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952. The ceremony is officiated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior cleric of the Church of England. Many other government officials and guests attend. (more...)

Featured biography

Portrait of Knox

John Knox was a Scottish clergyman, a leader of the Protestant Reformation, and is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination. Influenced by early church reformers such as George Wishart, he joined the movement to reform the Scottish church. He was caught up in the ecclesiastical and political events that involved the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546 and the intervention of the regent of Scotland. He was taken prisoner by French forces the following year and exiled to England on his release in 1549. While in exile, Knox was licensed to work in the Church of England, where he quickly rose in the ranks to serve the King of England, Edward VI, as a royal chaplain. In this position, he exerted a reforming influence on the text of the Book of Common Prayer. In England he met and married his first wife, Marjorie. When Mary Tudor ascended the throne and reestablished Roman Catholicism, Knox was forced to resign his position and leave the country. On his return to Scotland, he led the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, in partnership with the Scottish Protestant nobility. (more...)

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Salvage of the Mary Rose in October 1982


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The Palace of Westminster.
Photo credit: Diliff

The Palace of Westminster, also known as the Houses of Parliament, is where the two Houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) conduct their sittings. The Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the London borough of the City of Westminster.

In the news

Wikinews UK

14 January 2020 –
The United Kingdom bans the use of credit cards to make bets both for online and offline gambling, including the purchase of lottery tickets. The only exception to the ban is the purchase of lottery tickets in face-to-face transactions. The Gambling Commission says the ban will come into effect on April 14. (Reuters)
11 January 2020 – Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, 2019–20 Iranian protests
The British ambassador to Iran, Robert Macaire, is arrested during anti-government protests, after attending a vigil and then, according to BBC, getting his hair cut. According to Tasnim News Agency he was arrested "on suspicion of organising, provoking and directing radical actions". U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab states the arrest is in "flagrant violation" of international law. More than an hour later, Macaire is released from custody. (The Guardian)
11 January 2020 – United Kingdom–United States relations, Death of Harry Dunn
The U.S. State Department rejects an extradition request from the Home Office for the unlawful killing of Harry Dunn, describing it as "highly inappropriate" and "establish[ing] an extraordinarily troubling precedent". (BBC)
11 January 2020 – Politics of Northern Ireland, Executive of the 6th Northern Ireland Assembly
Following a deal brokered by the British and Irish governments, the Northern Ireland Executive is restored with Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster as First Minister and Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill as deputy First Minister, ending three years of political deadlock. The previous government had collapsed in 2017 as the result of a renewable energy scandal involving Foster. (Euronews)
9 January 2020 – Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, 2019–20 Persian Gulf crisis
U.S., Canadian, British and Iraqi officials say they believe the plane crash near Tehran in which 176 were killed yesterday was likely caused accidentally by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile, while Iran says it was due to "mechanical failure". (Newsweek) (NPR) (Reuters)
9 January 2020 – Brexit
The United Kingdom House of Commons votes 330–231 to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill authorizing the country’s departure from the European Union at the end of the month. (Associated Press)


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