The United Kingdom is a state made up of the historic countries of England, Wales and Scotland, as well as Northern Ireland. It is known as the home of both modern parliamentary democracy and the Industrial Revolution.
Two world wars and the end of empire diminished its role in the 20th Century, and the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union has raised significant questions about the country’s global role.
Nonetheless, the United Kingdom remains an economic and military power with great political and cultural influence around the world.
UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND: FACTS
- Capital: London
- Area: 242,945 sq km
- Population: 67.7 million
- Languages: English, also Scots, Ulster Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Welsh, Cornish
- Life expectancy: 79 years (men) 83 years (women)
Head of state: King Charles III
His Majesty King Charles III ascended to the throne in September 2022, on the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth II.
In September 2015, she had become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, surpassing the record of her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria.
King Charles is at 73 the oldest person to have ascended to the throne. He is also head of state of several independent countries in the Commonwealth.
As a constitutional monarch, his role in the legislative process is largely ceremonial.
Prime Minister: Rishi Sunak
The UK’s first British Asian prime minister, Mr Sunak took over from the previous prime minister, Liz Truss, in October 2022, just 49 days after she herself had taken over from Boris Johnson. Mr Truss was forced to resign after big tax cuts in a her mini-budget prompted financial turmoil.
Mr Sunak became leader of the Conservative party without a ballot of its members when his only remaining rival Penny Mordaunt withdrew.
Ms Truss had became prime minister after defeating Mr Sunak earlier in a ballot of Tory members during the summer, winning over members with her tax-cutting economic agenda.
Mr Sunak faces the tasks of managing government spending, rising inflation and energy prices – especially in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UK has a strong tradition of public service broadcasting and an international reputation for creative programme-making.
The BBC began daily radio broadcasts in 1922 and quickly came to play a pivotal role in national life. The corporation is funded by a licence fee, which every household with a TV set must pay.
Hundreds of privately-owned radio and TV stations now compete with the BBC for listeners and viewers.
There are many national and local newspapers, but print circulations have been sliding while online readership has surged.
There are more than 60 million internet users, and most British people have a social media presence.
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Some key dates in British history:
1914 – Outbreak of World War I. UK enters hostilities against Germany.
1918 – War ends in November with armistice. The number of UK war dead runs to several hundred thousand.
1921 – UK agrees to the foundation of the Irish Free State. Northern Ireland remains part of the UK.
1924 – First UK government led by the Labour party under Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.
1939 – Germany invades Poland. UK declares war on Germany.
1940 – Winston Churchill becomes prime minister.
1944 – Allied troops invade France from Britain on D-Day (6th June) and begin to fight their way towards Germany.
1945 – Germany surrenders. Labour leader Clement Atlee is elected prime minister to replace Winston Churchill. The new Labour government introduces the welfare state.
1945 – The UK becomes a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
1948 – National Health Service is established.
1949 – The UK becomes a founder member of Nato.
1960s – Decolonisation of former British-controlled territories gathers pace.
1969-1998 – British troops quell communal unrest in Northern Ireland.
1973 – The UK joins the European Economic Community.
1979 – Conservative Margaret Thatcher begins move towards deregulation of economy.
Around the BBC
BBC Languages- United Kingdom
Related Internet Links
Prime minister’s office
The British Parliament
The British Monarchy
English tourist board
Scottish tourist office
Northern Ireland Tourist Board