|Countries of the United Kingdom|
|Found in||Legal jurisdictions|
|Possible status|| NUTS 1 region (3)|
Legal jurisdiction (3)
|Additional status||Home Nations|
|Government|| Devolved legislature (3)|
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), since 1922 comprises four countries: England, Scotland, and Wales (which collectively make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland(which is variously described as a country, province, or region).
Although the UK is a unitary sovereign state, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution. The UK Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but not in general matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament, and the Senedd. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is conditional on co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland (see North/South Ministerial Council) and the British Government consults with the Government of Ireland to reach agreement on some non-devolved matters for Northern Ireland (see British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference). England, comprising the majority of the population and area of the United Kingdom,remains fully the responsibility of the UK Parliament centralised in London.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are not themselves listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However the ISO list of the subdivisions of the UK, compiled by British Standards and the UK's Office for National Statistics, uses "country" to describe England, Scotland, and Wales.Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a "province" in the same lists. Each has separate national governing bodies for sports and compete separately in many international sporting competitions, including the Commonwealth Games. Northern Ireland also forms joint All-Island sporting bodies with the Republic of Ireland for most sports, including rugby union.
The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the Crown and are not part of the UK. Similarly, the British overseas territories, remnants of the British Empire, are not part of the UK.
Historically, from 1801, following the Acts of Union, until 1921 the whole island of Ireland was a country within the UK. Ireland was split into two separate jurisdictions in 1921: Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland left the United Kingdom in 1922, left the Commonwealth of Nations in 1949 and is now known as the Republic of Ireland or simply Ireland.
|England||London||UK Parliament's Legislative Grand Committee for England 1||British Government2||English law||England and Wales|
|Northern Ireland||none3||Belfast||Northern Ireland Assembly||Northern Ireland Executive||Northern Ireland law , Irish land law||Northern Ireland|
|Scotland||Edinburgh||Scottish Parliament||Scottish Government||Scots law||Scotland|
|Wales||Cardiff||Senedd Cymru||Welsh Government||English law, Welsh law||England and Wales|
|United Kingdom||London||UK Parliament||UK Government||UK law||United Kingdom|
1The UK Parliament makes all English legislation, subject to English votes for English laws.
2The UK Government, the Greater London Authority, combined authorities, and the councils of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly exercise executive power in England.
3The former flag of Northern Ireland, the Ulster Banner, is still used in some sport-related contexts.
(per km²; 2019)
|GVA per capita*|
|Northern Ireland||1,893,667||3%||13,562||6%||139.63||34 billion||2%||18,584|
|United Kingdom||66,796,807||100%||242,509||100%||275.44||1,666 billion||100%||25,351|
*Gross value added. Figures for GVA do not include oil and gas revenues generated beyond the UK's territorial waters, in the country's continental shelf region.
Various terms have been used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
|Constitutional documents and events relevant to the status of the United Kingdom and its countries|
The Interpretation Act 1978 provides statutory definitions of the terms "England", "Wales" and the "United Kingdom", but neither that Act nor any other current statute defines "Scotland" or "Northern Ireland". Use of the first three terms in other legislation is interpreted following the definitions in the 1978 Act. The definitions in the 1978 Act are listed below:
In the Scotland Act 1998 there is no delineation of Scotland, with the definition in section 126 simply providing that Scotland includes "so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to Scotland". [ citation needed ]
The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 refers to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as "parts" of the United Kingdom in the following clause: "Each constituency shall be wholly in one of the four parts of the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)."
The Royal Fine Art Commission's 1847 report on decorating the Palace of Westminster referred to "the nationality of the component parts of the United Kingdom" being represented by their four respective patron saints.
For the purposes of NUTS 1 collection of statistical data in a format that is compatible with similar data collected in the European Union, the United Kingdom was divided into twelve regions of approximately equal size.Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were regions in their own right while England was divided into nine regions.
The official term rest of the UK (RUK or rUK) is used in Scotland, for example in export statisticsand in legislating for student funding.
The alternative term Home Nations is sometimes used in sporting contexts and may include all of the island of Ireland.
According to the British Social Attitudes Survey, there are broadly two interpretations of British identity, with ethnic and civic dimensions:
The first group, which we term the ethnic dimension, contained the items about birthplace, ancestry, living in Britain, and sharing British customs and traditions. The second, or civic group, contained the items about feeling British, respecting laws and institutions, speaking English, and having British citizenship.
Of the two perspectives of British identity, the civic definition has become the dominant idea and in this capacity, Britishness is sometimes considered an institutional or overarching state identity.This has been used to explain why first-, second- and third-generation immigrants are more likely to describe themselves as British, rather than English, Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh, because it is an "institutional, inclusive" identity, that can be acquired through naturalisation and British nationality law; the vast majority of people in the United Kingdom who are from an ethnic minority feel British. However, this attitude is more common in England than in Scotland or Wales; "white English people perceived themselves as English first and as British second, and most people from ethnic minority backgrounds perceived themselves as British, but none identified as English, a label they associated exclusively with white people". Contrariwise, in Scotland and Wales "there was a much stronger identification with each country than with Britain."
Studies and surveys have reported that the majority of the Scots and Welsh see themselves as both Scottish/Welsh and British though with some differences in emphasis. The Commission for Racial Equality found that with respect to notions of nationality in Britain, "the most basic, objective and uncontroversial conception of the British people is one that includes the English, the Scots and the Welsh".However, "English participants tended to think of themselves as indistinguishably English or British, while both Scottish and Welsh participants identified themselves much more readily as Scottish or Welsh than as British". Some people opted "to combine both identities" as "they felt Scottish or Welsh, but held a British passport and were therefore British", whereas others saw themselves as exclusively Scottish or exclusively Welsh and "felt quite divorced from the British, whom they saw as the English". Commentators have described this latter phenomenon as "nationalism", a rejection of British identity because some Scots and Welsh interpret it as "cultural imperialism imposed" upon the United Kingdom by "English ruling elites", or else a response to a historical misappropriation of equating the word "English" with "British", which has "brought about a desire among Scots, Welsh and Irish to learn more about their heritage and distinguish themselves from the broader British identity". The propensity for nationalistic feeling varies greatly across the UK, and can rise and fall over time.
The state-funded Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey,part of a joint project between the University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast, has addressed the issue of identity in since it started polling in 1998. It reported that 37% of people identified as British, whilst 29% identified as Irish and 24% identified as Northern Irish. 3% opted to identify themselves as Ulster, whereas 7% stated 'other'. Of the two main religious groups, 68% of Protestants identified as British as did 6% of Catholics; 60% of Catholics identified as Irish as did 3% of Protestants. 21% of Protestants and 26% of Catholics identified as Northern Irish.
For Northern Ireland, however, the results of the Life & Times Survey are not the whole story. The poll asks for a single preference, whereas many people easily identify as any combination of British and Irish, or British, Northern Irish and Irish, or Irish and Northern Irish. The 2014 Life & Times Survey addressed this to an extent by choosing two of the options from the identity question: British and Irish. It found that, while 28% of respondents stated they felt "British not Irish" and 26% felt "Irish not British", 39% of respondents felt some combination of both identities. Six percent chose 'other description'.
The identity question is confounded further by identity with politics and religion, and particularly by a stance on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Again in 2014, the Life & Times Survey asked what respondents felt should be the "long term future for Northern Ireland". 66% of respondents felt the future should be as a part of the UK, with or without devolved government. 17% felt that Northern Ireland should unify with the Republic of Ireland. 50% of specifically Roman Catholics considered that the long-term future should be as part of the UK, with 32% opting for separation. 87% of respondents identifying as any Protestant denomination opted for remaining part of the UK, with only 4% opting for separation. Of those respondents who declared no religion, 62% opted for remaining part of the UK, with 9% opting for separation.
Following devolution and the significant broadening of autonomous governance throughout the UK in the late 1990s, debate has taken place across the United Kingdom on the relative value of full independence,an option that was rejected by the Scottish people in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
Cornwall is administered as a county of England, but the Cornish people are a recognised national minority, included under the terms of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities in 2014.
Each of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales has separate national governing bodies for sports and competes separately in many international sporting competitions.Each country of the United Kingdom has a national football team, and competes as a separate national team in the various disciplines in the Commonwealth Games. At the Olympic Games, the United Kingdom is represented by the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team, although athletes from Northern Ireland can choose to join the Republic of Ireland's Olympic team. In addition to Northern Ireland having its own national governing bodies for some sports such as Association football and Netball, for others, such as rugby union and cricket, Northern Ireland participates with the Republic of Ireland in a joint All-Ireland team. England and Wales field a joint cricket team.
The United Kingdom participates in the Eurovision Song Contest as a single entity, though there have been calls for separate and Scottish and Welsh entrants. In 2017, Wales participated alone in the spin-off "Choir of the Year".
One specific problem – in both general and particular senses – is to know what to call Northern Ireland itself: in the general sense, it is not a country, or a province, or a state – although some refer to it contemptuously as a statelet: the least controversial word appears to be jurisdiction, but this might change.
One problem must be adverted to in writing about Northern Ireland. This is the question of what name to give to the various geographical entities. These names can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences. ... some refer to Northern Ireland as a 'province'. That usage can arouse irritation particularly among nationalists, who claim the title 'province' should be properly reserved to the four historic provinces of Ireland-Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht. If I want to a label to apply to Northern Ireland I shall call it a 'region'. Unionists should find that title as acceptable as 'province': Northern Ireland appears as a region in the regional statistics of the United Kingdom published by the British government.
Next – what noun is appropriate to Northern Ireland? 'Province' won't do since one-third of the province is on the wrong side of the border. 'State' implies more self-determination than Northern Ireland has ever had and 'country' or 'nation' are blatantly absurd. 'Colony' has overtones that would be resented by both communities and 'statelet' sounds too patronizing, though outsiders might consider it more precise than anything else; so one is left with the unsatisfactory word 'region'.
In most sports, except soccer, Northern Ireland participates with the Republic of Ireland in a combined All-Ireland team.
Northern Ireland is variously described as a country, province or region which is part of the United Kingdom. Located in the northeast of the island of Ireland, Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland. In 2011, its population was 1,810,863, constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the UK's population. Established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters, while other areas are reserved for the British government. Northern Ireland co-operates with the Republic of Ireland in several areas, and the Agreement granted the Republic the ability to "put forward views and proposals" with "determined efforts to resolve disagreements between the two governments".
The United Kingdom has four legal systems, each of which derives from a particular geographical area for a variety of historical reasons: English law, Scots law, Northern Ireland law, and, since 2007, purely Welsh law. However, unlike the other three, Welsh law is not a separate legal system per se, merely the primary and secondary legislation generated by the Welsh Parliament, interpreted in accordance with the doctrines of English law and not impacting upon English common law. There is a substantial overlap between these three legal systems and the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom: England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Each legal system defaults to its jurisdiction, each of whose courts further that law through jurisprudence. Choice of which jurisdiction’s law to use is possible in private law: for example a company in Edinburgh, Scotland and a company in Belfast, Northern Ireland are free to contract in English law. This is not so in public law, where there are set rules of procedure in each jurisdiction. Overarching these systems is the law of the United Kingdom, also known as United Kingdom law. UK law arises from laws applying to the United Kingdom and/or its citizens as a whole, most obviously constitutional law, but also other areas, for instance tax law.
The West Lothian question, also known as the English question, is a political issue in the United Kingdom (UK). It concerns the question of whether MPs from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, sitting in the House of Commons should be able to vote on matters that affect only England, while MPs from England are unable to vote on matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Parliament. The term West Lothian question was coined by Enoch Powell MP in 1977 after Tam Dalyell, the Labour MP for the Scottish constituency of West Lothian, raised the matter repeatedly in House of Commons debates on devolution.
English, in various dialects, is the most widely spoken language of the United Kingdom, however there are a number of regional languages also spoken. There are 14 indigenous languages used across the British Isles: 5 Celtic, 3 Germanic, 3 Romance, and 3 sign languages. There are also many immigrant languages spoken in the British Isles, mainly within inner city areas; these languages are mainly from South Asia and Eastern Europe.
The Politics of England forms the major part of the wider politics of the United Kingdom, with England being more populous than all the other countries of the United Kingdom put together. As England is also by far the largest in terms of area and GDP, its relationship to the UK is somewhat different from that of Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. The English capital London is also the capital of the UK, and English is the dominant language of the UK. Dicey and Morris (p26) list the separate states in the British Islands. "England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, and Sark.... is a separate country in the sense of the conflict of laws, though not one of them is a State known to public international law." But this may be varied by statute.
A nationwide census, known as Census 2001, was conducted in the United Kingdom on Sunday, 29 April 2001. This was the 20th UK census and recorded a resident population of 58,789,194.
Unionism in Scotland is a political movement which favours the continuation of political union between Scotland and the other countries of the United Kingdom, and hence is opposed to Scottish independence. Scotland is one of four countries of the United Kingdom which has its own devolved government and Scottish Parliament, as well as representation in the UK Parliament. There are many strands of political Unionism in Scotland, some of which have ties to Unionism and Loyalism in Northern Ireland. The three main political parties in the UK: the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats all support Scotland remaining part of the UK.
The Welsh are a Celtic nation and ethnic group native to Wales. The term "Welsh people" applies to people from Wales and people of Welsh ancestry perceiving themselves or being perceived as sharing a cultural heritage and shared ancestral origins. Wales is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. The majority of people living in Wales are British citizens.
Politics in Wales forms a distinctive polity in the wider politics of the United Kingdom, with Wales as one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom (UK).
The terminology of the British Isles refers to the words and phrases that are used to describe the geographical and political areas of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland and the smaller islands which surround them. The terms are often a source of confusion, partly owing to the similarity between some of the actual words used but also because they are often used loosely. Many of the words carry geographical and political connotations which are affected by the history of the islands.
Britishness is the state or quality of being British, or of embodying British characteristics. It comprises the claimed qualities that bind and distinguish the British people and form the basis of their unity and identity, and the expressions of British culture—such as habits, behaviours, or symbols—that have a common, familiar or iconic quality readily identifiable with the United Kingdom. Dialogue about the legitimacy and authenticity of Britishness is intrinsically tied with power relations and politics; in terms of nationhood and belonging, expressing or recognising one's Britishness provokes a range of responses and attitudes, such as advocacy, indifference, or rejection.
Unionism in the United Kingdom, also referred to as British unionism, is a political ideology favouring the continued unity of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as one sovereign state, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Those who support the union are referred to as "Unionists".
The formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has involved personal and political union across Great Britain and the wider British Isles. The United Kingdom is the most recent of a number of sovereign states that have been established in Great Britain at different periods in history, in different combinations and under a variety of polities. Norman Davies has counted sixteen different states over the past 2,000 years.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; a sovereign state in Europe, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK), or Britain. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, it includes the island of Great Britain—a term also applied loosely to refer to the whole country—the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands
British nationalism asserts that the British are a nation and promotes the cultural unity of Britons, in a definition of Britishness that may include people of English, Scottish, Welsh, and Irish descent. British nationalism is closely associated with British unionism, which seeks to uphold the political union that is the United Kingdom, or strengthen the links between the countries of the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland is the smallest of the four components of the United Kingdom in terms of both area and population, containing 2.9% of the total population and 5.7% of the total area of the United Kingdom. It is the smaller of the two political entities on the island of Ireland by area and population, the other being the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign state which gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1921. Northern Ireland contains 28.3% of the total population and 16.75% of the total area of the island of Ireland.
The English people are a nation and an ethnic group native to England who speak the English language, and share a common history and culture. The English identity is of early medieval origin, when they were known in Old English as the Angelcynn. Their ethnonym is derived from the Angles, one of the Germanic peoples who migrated to Great Britain around the 5th century AD. England is the largest and most populous country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the majority of people living there are British citizens.
The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependencies. British nationality law governs modern British citizenship and nationality, which can be acquired, for instance, by descent from British nationals. When used in a historical context, "British" or "Britons" can refer to the Celtic Britons, the indigenous inhabitants of Great Britain and Brittany, whose surviving members are the modern Welsh people, Cornish people, and Bretons. It also refers to citizens of the former British Empire, who settled in the country prior to 1973, and hold neither UK citizenship or nationality.
In the United Kingdom, devolution is the Parliament of the United Kingdom statutory granting of a greater level of self-government, to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the London Assembly and to their associated executive bodies the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and in England, the Greater London Authority and combined authorities.
Federalism in the United Kingdom refers to the distribution of power between countries and regions of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom, despite being composed of four countries, three of which have their own cabinet, legislature and First Minister, has traditionally been a unitary state, governed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in Westminster. Instead of adopting a federal model, such as that of the United States, the United Kingdom continues to employ a system of devolution, in which political power is gradually decentralized. Devolution differs from federalism in that authority ultimately remains with the British Government, and as such the United Kingdom remains a de jure unitary state, where an Act of Parliament could theoretically remove these powers. Devolution has only been extended to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Greater London, and London remains the only region of England to have significantly devolved power.