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The United Kingdom has historically played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith in the 19th century, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw two World Wars seriously deplete the UK's strength and the Irish Republic withdraw from the union. The second half witnessed the dismantling of the Empire and the UK rebuilding itself into a modern and prosperous European nation. As one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a founding member of NATO and the Commonwealth of Nations, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1998.

The UK was an active member of the EU after its accession in 1973, although it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union. However, motivated in part by frustration at a remote bureaucracy in Brussels and massive migration into the country, UK citizens on 23 June 2016 voted by 52 to 48 percent to leave the EU. The UK became the first country to depart the EU on 31 January 2020, after prolonged negotiations on EU-UK economic and security relationships had been hammered out.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



Western Europe, islands - including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland - between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea; northwest of France

Geographic coordinates

54 00 N, 2 00 W


total: 243,610 sq km

land: 241,930 sq km

water: 1,680 sq km

note 1: the percentage area breakdown of the four UK countries is: England 53%, Scotland 32%, Wales 9%, and Northern Ireland 6%

note 2: includes Rockall and the Shetland Islands, which are part of Scotland

country comparison to the world: 80

Area - comparative

twice the size of Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than Oregon

<p>twice the size of Pennsylvania; slightly smaller than Oregon</p>

Land boundaries

total: 499 km

border countries (1): Ireland 499 km


12,429 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

continental shelf: as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries

exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast


mostly rugged hills and low mountains; level to rolling plains in east and southeast


highest point: Ben Nevis 1,345 m

lowest point: The Fens -4 m

mean elevation: 162 m

Natural resources

coal, petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, lead, zinc, gold, tin, limestone, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, potash, silica sand, slate, arable land

Land use

agricultural land: 71% (2018 est.)

arable land: 25.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 45.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 11.9% (2018 est.)

other: 17.1% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

950 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

the core of the population lies in and around London, with significant clusters found in central Britain around Manchester and Liverpool, in the Scotish lowlands between Endinburgh and Glasgow, southern Wales in and around Cardiff, and far eastern Northern Ireland centered on Belfast

Natural hazards

winter windstorms; floods

Geography - note

lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and linked by tunnel under the English Channel (the Channel Tunnel or Chunnel); because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters

People and Society


67.081 million United Kingdom (June 2020 est.)

constituent countries by percentage of total population:
England 84.3%
Scotland 8.1%
Wales 4.7%
Northern Ireland 2.8%

country comparison to the world: 22


noun: Briton(s), British (collective plural)

adjective: British

Ethnic groups

White 87.2%, Black/African/Caribbean/black British 3%, Asian/Asian British: Indian 2.3%, Asian/Asian British: Pakistani 1.9%, mixed 2%, other 3.7% (2011 est.)



note: the following are recognized regional languages: Scots (about 30% of the population of Scotland), Scottish Gaelic (about 60,000 speakers in Scotland), Welsh (about 20% of the population of Wales), Irish (about 10% of the population of Northern Ireland), Cornish (some 2,000 to 3,000 people in Cornwall) (2012 est.)


Christian (includes Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 59.5%, Muslim 4.4%, Hindu 1.3%, other 2%, unspecified 7.2%, none 25.7% (2011 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 17.63% (male 5,943,435/female 5,651,780)

15-24 years: 11.49% (male 3,860,435/female 3,692,398)

25-54 years: 39.67% (male 13,339,965/female 12,747,598)

55-64 years: 12.73% (male 4,139,378/female 4,234,701)

65 years and over: 18.48% (male 5,470,116/female 6,681,311) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for United Kingdom. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 57.1

youth dependency ratio: 27.8

elderly dependency ratio: 29.3

potential support ratio: 3.4 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 40.6 years

male: 39.6 years

female: 41.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 50

Birth rate

11.77 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Death rate

9.41 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 47

Net migration rate

2.47 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 41

Population distribution

the core of the population lies in and around London, with significant clusters found in central Britain around Manchester and Liverpool, in the Scotish lowlands between Endinburgh and Glasgow, southern Wales in and around Cardiff, and far eastern Northern Ireland centered on Belfast


urban population: 84.2% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.8% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

9.426 million LONDON (capital), 2.750 million Manchester, 2.626 million Birmingham, 1.902 million West Yorkshire, 1.681 million Glasgow, 936,000 Southampton/Portsmouth (2021)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 1.05 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.82 male(s)/female

total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

29 years (2018 est.)

note: data represent England and Wales only

Maternal mortality ratio

7 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 158

Infant mortality rate

total: 4.27 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 4.82 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 3.69 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 186

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 81.3 years

male: 79.02 years

female: 83.7 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 38

Contraceptive prevalence rate

76.1% (2010/12)

note: percent of women aged 16-49

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

2.81 physicians/1,000 population (2018)

Hospital bed density

2.5 beds/1,000 population (2019)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 100% of population

rural: 100% of population

total: 100% of population

unimproved: urban: 0% of population

rural: 0% of population

total: 0% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

respiratory diseases: Covid-19 (see note) (2020)

note: widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is occurring throughout the UK; as of 6 October 2021, the UK has reported a total of 7,967,989  cases of COVID-19 or 11,737.31 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with 202.03 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population; as of 5 October 2021, 71.89% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine; the US Department of Homeland Security has issued instructions requiring US passengers who have been in the UK to travel through select airports where the US Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 17 years

male: 17 years

female: 18 years (2019)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 11.2%

male: 13%

female: 9.2% (2019 est.)


Environment - current issues

air pollution improved but remains a concern, particularly in the London region; soil pollution from pesticides and heavy metals; decline in marine and coastal habitats brought on by pressures from housing, tourism, and industry

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Heavy Metals, Air Pollution-Multi-effect Protocol, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Dumping-London Protocol, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 10.53 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 379.02 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 49.16 megatons (2020 est.)


temperate; moderated by prevailing southwest winds over the North Atlantic Current; more than one-half of the days are overcast

Land use

agricultural land: 71% (2018 est.)

arable land: 25.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.2% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 45.7% (2018 est.)

forest: 11.9% (2018 est.)

other: 17.1% (2018 est.)


urban population: 84.2% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 0.8% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 183

Major infectious diseases

respiratory diseases: Covid-19 (see note) (2020)

note: widespread ongoing transmission of a respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is occurring throughout the UK; as of 6 October 2021, the UK has reported a total of 7,967,989  cases of COVID-19 or 11,737.31 cumulative cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population with 202.03 cumulative deaths per 100,000 population; as of 5 October 2021, 71.89% of the population has received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine; the US Department of Homeland Security has issued instructions requiring US passengers who have been in the UK to travel through select airports where the US Government has implemented enhanced screening procedures

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 31.567 million tons (2014 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 8,602,008 tons (2015 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 27.3% (2015 est.)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 6.227 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 1.01 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 1.183 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

147 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; note - the island of Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales

conventional short form: United Kingdom

abbreviation: UK

etymology: self-descriptive country name; the designation "Great Britain," in the sense of "Larger Britain," dates back to medieval times and was used to distinguish the island from "Little Britain," or Brittany in modern France; the name Ireland derives from the Gaelic "Eriu," the matron goddess of Ireland (goddess of the land)

Government type

parliamentary constitutional monarchy; a Commonwealth realm


name: London

geographic coordinates: 51 30 N, 0 05 W

time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

time zone note: the time statements apply to the United Kingdom proper, not to its crown dependencies or overseas territories

etymology: the name derives from the Roman settlement of Londinium, established on the current site of London around A.D. 43; the original meaning of the name is uncertain

Administrative divisions

England: 26 two-tier counties, 32 London boroughs and 1 City of London or Greater London, 36 metropolitan districts, 56 unitary authorities (including 4 single-tier counties*);

two-tier counties: Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Cumbria, Derbyshire, Devon, Dorset, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Kent, Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, North Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, Warwickshire, West Sussex, Worcestershire

London boroughs and City of London or Greater London: Barking and Dagenham, Barnet, Bexley, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Kingston upon Thames, Lambeth, Lewisham, City of London, Merton, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond upon Thames, Southwark, Sutton, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest, Wandsworth, Westminster

metropolitan districts: Barnsley, Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford, Bury, Calderdale, Coventry, Doncaster, Dudley, Gateshead, Kirklees, Knowlsey, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Oldham, Rochdale, Rotherham, Salford, Sandwell, Sefton, Sheffield, Solihull, South Tyneside, St. Helens, Stockport, Sunderland, Tameside, Trafford, Wakefield, Walsall, Wigan, Wirral, Wolverhampton

unitary authorities: Bath and North East Somerset; Bedford; Blackburn with Darwen; Blackpool; Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole; Bracknell Forest; Brighton and Hove; City of Bristol; Central Bedfordshire; Cheshire East; Cheshire West and Chester; Cornwall; Darlington; Derby; Dorset; Durham County*; East Riding of Yorkshire; Halton; Hartlepool; Herefordshire*; Isle of Wight*; Isles of Scilly; City of Kingston upon Hull; Leicester; Luton; Medway; Middlesbrough; Milton Keynes; North East Lincolnshire; North Lincolnshire; North Somerset; Northumberland*; Nottingham; Peterborough; Plymouth; Portsmouth; Reading; Redcar and Cleveland; Rutland; Shropshire; Slough; South Gloucestershire; Southampton; Southend-on-Sea; Stockton-on-Tees; Stoke-on-Trent; Swindon; Telford and Wrekin; Thurrock; Torbay; Warrington; West Berkshire; Wiltshire; Windsor and Maidenhead; Wokingham; York

Northern Ireland: 5 borough councils, 4 district councils, 2 city councils;

borough councils: Antrim and Newtownabbey; Ards and North Down; Armagh City, Banbridge, and Craigavon; Causeway Coast and Glens; Mid and East Antrim

district councils: Derry City and Strabane; Fermanagh and Omagh; Mid Ulster; Newry, Murne, and Down

city councils: Belfast; Lisburn and Castlereagh

Scotland: 32 council areas;

council areas: Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire, Angus, Argyll and Bute, Clackmannanshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian, East Renfrewshire, City of Edinburgh, Eilean Siar (Western Isles), Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Highland, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Orkney Islands, Perth and Kinross, Renfrewshire, Shetland Islands, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Stirling, The Scottish Borders, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian

Wales: 22 unitary authorities;

unitary authorities: Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Merthyr Tydfil, Monmouthshire, Neath Port Talbot, Newport, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Swansea, The Vale of Glamorgan, Torfaen, Wrexham

Dependent areas

Anguilla; Bermuda; British Indian Ocean Territory; British Virgin Islands; Cayman Islands; Falkland Islands; Gibraltar; Montserrat; Pitcairn Islands; Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Turks and Caicos Islands


no official date of independence: 927 (minor English kingdoms unite); 3 March 1284 (enactment of the Statute of Rhuddlan uniting England and Wales); 1536 (Act of Union formally incorporates England and Wales); 1 May 1707 (Acts of Union formally unite England, Scotland, and Wales as Great Britain); 1 January 1801 (Acts of Union formally unite Great Britain and Ireland as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland); 6 December 1921 (Anglo-Irish Treaty formalizes partition of Ireland; six counties remain part of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland); 12 April 1927 (Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act establishes current name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

National holiday

the UK does not celebrate one particular national holiday


history: unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice

amendments: proposed as a bill for an Act of Parliament by the government, by the House of Commons, or by the House of Lords; passage requires agreement by both houses and by the monarch (Royal Assent); many previous, last in 2020 -  The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020, European Union (Future Relationship) Act 2020 (2021)

Legal system

common law system; has nonbinding judicial review of Acts of Parliament under the Human Rights Act of 1998

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of the United Kingdom

dual citizenship recognized: yes

residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: Queen ELIZABETH II (since 6 February 1952); Heir Apparent Prince CHARLES (son of the queen, born 14 November 1948)

head of government: Prime Minister Boris JOHNSON (Conservative) (since 24 July 2019)

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition usually becomes the prime minister; election last held on 12 December 2019 (next to be held by 2 May 2024)

note: in addition to serving as the UK head of state, the British sovereign is the constitutional monarch for 15 additional Commonwealth countries (these 16 states are each referred to as a Commonwealth realm)

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of:
House of Lords (membership not fixed; as of October 2021, 787 lords were eligible to participate in the work of the House of Lords - 673 life peers, 88 hereditary peers, and 26 clergy; members are appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister and non-party political members recommended by the House of Lords Appointments Commission); note - House of Lords total does not include ineligible members or members on leave of absence
House of Commons (650 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority popular vote to serve 5-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier)

House of Lords - no elections; note - in 1999, as provided by the House of Lords Act, elections were held in the House of Lords to determine the 92 hereditary peers who would remain; elections held only as vacancies in the hereditary peerage arise)
House of Commons - last held on 12 December 2019 (next to be held by 2 May 2024)

election results:
House of Lords - composition - men 579, women 217, percent of women 27.3%
House of Commons - percent of vote by party - Conservative 43.6%, Labor 32.1%, Lib Dems 11.6%, SNP 3.9%, Greens 2.7%, Brexit Party 2.0%, other 4.1%; seats by party - Conservative 365, Labor 202, SNP 48, Lib Dems 11, DUP 8, Sinn Fein 7, Plaid Cymru 4, other 9; composition - men 430, women 220, percent of women 34%; total Parliament percent of women 30.2%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Supreme Court (consists of 12 justices, including the court president and deputy president); note - the Supreme Court was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and implemented in 2009, replacing the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords as the highest court in the United Kingdom

judge selection and term of office: judge candidates selected by an independent committee of several judicial commissions, followed by their recommendations to the prime minister, and appointed by the monarch; justices serve for life

subordinate courts: England and Wales: Court of Appeal (civil and criminal divisions); High Court; Crown Court; County Courts; Magistrates' Courts; Scotland: Court of Sessions; Sheriff Courts; High Court of Justiciary; tribunals; Northern Ireland: Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland; High Court; county courts; magistrates' courts; specialized tribunals

Political parties and leaders

Alliance Party (Northern Ireland) [Naomi LONG] 
Conservative and Unionist Party [Boris JOHNSON]
Democratic Unionist Party or DUP (Northern Ireland) [Jeffrey DONALDSON]
Green Party of England and Wales or Greens [Sian BERRY and Jonathan BARTLEY]
Labor (Labour) Party [Sir Keir STARMER]
Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) [Ed Davey]
Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru) [Adam PRICE]
Scottish National Party or SNP [Nicola STURGEON]
Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) [Mary Lou MCDONALD]
Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland) [Colum EASTWOOD]
Ulster Unionist Party or UUP (Northern Ireland) [Robin SWANN]
UK Independence Party or UKIP [Pat MOUNTAIN, interim leader]

International organization participation

ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Arctic Council (observer), Australia Group, BIS, C, CBSS (observer), CD, CDB, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECB, EIB, EITI (implementing country), ESA, EU, FAO, FATF, G-5, G-7, G-8, G-10, G-20, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IGAD (partners), IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINUSMA, MONUSCO, NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, Pacific Alliance (observer), Paris Club, PCA, PIF (partner), SELEC (observer), SICA (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNMISS, UNRWA, UN Security Council (permanent), UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Karen Elizabeth PIERCE (since 8 April 2020)

chancery: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 588-6500

FAX: [1] (202) 588-7870

email address and website:


consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco

consulate(s): Orlando (FL), San Juan (Puerto Rico)

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Philip T. REEKER (since 1 August 2021)

embassy: 33 Nine Elms Lane, London, SW11 7US

mailing address: 8400 London Place, Washington DC  20521-8400

telephone: [44] (0) 20-7499-9000

FAX: [44] (0) 20-7891-3845

email address and website:


consulate(s) general: Belfast, Edinburgh

Flag description

blue field with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, and British overseas territories

National symbol(s)

lion (Britain in general); lion, Tudor rose, oak (England); lion, unicorn, thistle (Scotland); dragon, daffodil, leek (Wales); shamrock, flax (Northern Ireland); national colors: red, white, blue (Britain in general); red, white (England); blue, white (Scotland); red, white, green (Wales)

National anthem

name: God Save the Queen

lyrics/music: unknown

note: in use since 1745; by tradition, the song serves as both the national and royal anthem of the UK; it is known as either "God Save the Queen" or "God Save the King," depending on the gender of the reigning monarch; it also serves as the royal anthem of many Commonwealth nations


Economic overview

The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is the third largest economy in Europe after Germany and France. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with less than 2% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil resources, but its oil and natural gas reserves are declining; the UK has been a net importer of energy since 2005. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, are key drivers of British GDP growth. Manufacturing, meanwhile, has declined in importance but still accounts for about 10% of economic output.

In 2008, the global financial crisis hit the economy particularly hard, due to the importance of its financial sector. Falling home prices, high consumer debt, and the global economic slowdown compounded the UK’s economic problems, pushing the economy into recession in the latter half of 2008 and prompting the then BROWN (Labour) government to implement a number of measures to stimulate the economy and stabilize the financial markets. Facing burgeoning public deficits and debt levels, in 2010 the then CAMERON-led coalition government (between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats) initiated an austerity program, which has continued under the Conservative government. However, the deficit still remains one of the highest in the G7, standing at 3.6% of GDP as of 2017, and the UK has pledged to lower its corporation tax from 20% to 17% by 2020. The UK had a debt burden of 90.4% GDP at the end of 2017.

The UK economy has begun to slow since the referendum vote to leave the EU in June 2016. A sustained depreciation of the British pound has increased consumer and producer prices, weighing on consumer spending without spurring a meaningful increase in exports. The UK has an extensive trade relationship with other EU members through its single market membership, and economic observers have warned the exit will jeopardize its position as the central location for European financial services. The UK is slated to leave the EU at the end of January 2020.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$2,797,980,000,000 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)

$3,101,640,000,000 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$3,059,690,000,000 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 10

Real GDP growth rate

1.26% (2019 est.)

1.25% (2018 est.)

1.74% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 163

Real GDP per capita

$41,600 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)

$46,400 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$46,000 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 40

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2,827,918,000,000 (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

1.7% (2019 est.)

2.4% (2018 est.)

2.6% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 98

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: AA- (2020)

Moody's rating: Aaa (2020)

Standard & Poors rating: AA (2016)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 0.7% (2017 est.)

industry: 20.2% (2017 est.)

services: 79.2% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 65.8% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 18.3% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 17.2% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: 0.2% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 30.2% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -31.5% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

wheat, milk, barley, sugar beet, potatoes, rapeseed, poultry, oats, pork, beef


machine tools, electric power equipment, automation equipment, railroad equipment, shipbuilding, aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, electronics and communications equipment, metals, chemicals, coal, petroleum, paper and paper products, food processing, textiles, clothing, other consumer goods

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 1.3%

industry: 15.2%

services: 83.5% (2014 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1.7%

highest 10%: 31.1% (2012)


revenues: 1.028 trillion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 1.079 trillion (2017 est.)

Public debt

87.5% of GDP (2017 est.)

87.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

note: data cover general government debt and include debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intragovernmental debt; intragovernmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions

country comparison to the world: 29

Fiscal year

6 April - 5 April

Current account balance

-$121.921 billion (2019 est.)

-$104.927 billion (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 205


$741.95 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2020 est.)

$879.92 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2019 est.)

$882.65 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 6

Exports - partners

United States 15%, Germany 10%, China 7%, Netherlands 7%, France 7%, Ireland 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

cars, gas turbines, gold, crude petroleum, packaged medicines (2019)


$752.77 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2020 est.)

$914.96 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2019 est.)

$916.4 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 6

Imports - partners

Germany 13%, China 10%, United States 8%, Netherlands 7%, France 6%, Belgium 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

gold, cars, crude petroleum, refined petroleum, broadcasting equipment (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$150.8 billion (31 December 2017 est.)

$129.6 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 18

Debt - external

$8,721,590,000,000 (2019 est.)

$8,696,559,000,000 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 2

Exchange rates

British pounds (GBP) per US dollar -

0.7836 (2017 est.)

0.738 (2016 est.)

0.738 (2015 est.)

0.607 (2014 est.)

0.6391 (2013 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 11.2%

male: 13%

female: 9.2% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 100% (2020)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 32.078 million (2020)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 47.25 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 6

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 79.007 million (2020)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 116.4 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 20

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: UK’s telecom market remains one of the largest in Europe, characterized by competition, affordable pricing, and its technologically advanced systems; mobile penetration above the EU average; government to invest in infrastructure and 5G technologies with ambition for a fully-fibered nation by 2033; operators expanded the reach of 5G services in 2020; super-fast broadband available to about 95% of customers; London is developing smart city technology, in collaboration with private, tech, and academic sectors; in 2020 the UK Government banned Chinese company Huawei's 5G equipment from the UK's 5G networks following advisement from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC); importer of broadcasting equipment from China (2020)

domestic: equal mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optic systems; fixed-line 48 per 100 and mobile-cellular 118 per 100 (2019)

international: country code - 44; Landing points for the GTT Atlantic, Scotland-Northern Ireland -1, & -2, Lanis 1,-2, &-3, Sirius North, BT-MT-1, SHEFA-2, BT Highlands and Islands Submarine Cable System, Northern Lights, FARICE-1, Celtic Norse, Tampnet Offshore FOC Network, England Cable, CC-2, E-LLan, Sirius South, ESAT -1 & -2, Rockabill, Geo-Eirgrid, UK-Netherlands-14, Circle North & South, Ulysses2, Conceto, Farland North, Pan European Crossing, Solas, Swansea-Bream, GTT Express, Tata TGN-Atlantic & -Western Europe, Apollo, EIG, Glo-1, TAT-14, Yellow, Celtic, FLAG Atlantic-1, FEA, Isle of Scilly Cable, UK-Channel Islands-8 and SeaMeWe-3 submarine cables providing links throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Australia, and US; satellite earth stations - 10 Intelsat (7 Atlantic Ocean and 3 Indian Ocean), 1 Inmarsat (Atlantic Ocean region), and 1 Eutelsat; at least 8 large international switching centers (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

Broadcast media

public service broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), is the largest broadcasting corporation in the world; BBC operates multiple TV networks with regional and local TV service; a mixed system of public and commercial TV broadcasters along with satellite and cable systems provide access to hundreds of TV stations throughout the world; BBC operates multiple national, regional, and local radio networks with multiple transmission sites; a large number of commercial radio stations, as well as satellite radio services are available (2018)

Internet users

total: 65.32 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 94.82% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 14

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 27,490,258 (2020)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 40.49 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 8

Communications - note

note 1: the British Library claims to be the largest library in the world with well over 150 million items and in most known languages; it receives copies of all books produced in the UK or Ireland, as well as a significant proportion of overseas titles distributed in the UK; in addition to books (print and digital), holdings include: journals, manuscripts, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, maps, prints, patents, and drawings

note 2: on 1 May 1840, the United Kingdom led the world with the introduction of postage stamps; the Austrian Empire had examined the idea of an "adhesive tax postmark" for the prepayment of postage in 1835; while the suggestion was reviewed in detail, it was rejected for the time being; other countries (including Austria) soon followed the UK's example with their own postage stamps; by the 1860s, most countries were issuing stamps; originally, stamps had to be cut from sheets; the UK issued the first postage stamps with perforations in 1854


National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 20 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 794

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 165,388,610 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 6,198,370,000 mt-km (2018)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 271

over 3,047 m: 7

2,438 to 3,047 m: 29

1,524 to 2,437 m: 89

914 to 1,523 m: 80

under 914 m: 66 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 189

1,524 to 2,437 m: 3

914 to 1,523 m: 26

under 914 m: 160 (2013)


9 (2013)


502 km condensate, 9 km condensate/gas, 28603 km gas, 59 km liquid petroleum gas, 5256 km oil, 175 km oil/gas/water, 4919 km refined products, 255 km water (2013)


total: 16,837 km (2015)

standard gauge: 16,534 km 1.435-m gauge (5,357 km electrified) (2015)

broad gauge: 303 km 1.600-m gauge (in Northern Ireland) (2015)

country comparison to the world: 17


total: 394,428 km (2009)

paved: 394,428 km (includes 3,519 km of expressways) (2009)

country comparison to the world: 19


3,200 km (620 km used for commerce) (2009)

country comparison to the world: 31

Merchant marine

total: 1,249

by type: bulk carrier 140, container ship 59, general cargo 109, oil tanker 84, other 857 (2021)

country comparison to the world: 21

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Dover, Felixstowe, Immingham, Liverpool, London, Southampton, Teesport (England); Forth Ports (Scotland); Milford Haven (Wales)

oil terminal(s): Fawley Marine terminal, Liverpool Bay terminal (England); Braefoot Bay terminal, Finnart oil terminal, Hound Point terminal (Scotland)

container port(s) (TEUs): Felixstowe (3,584,000), London (2,790,000), Southampton (1,924,847) (2019)

LNG terminal(s) (import): Isle of Grain, Milford Haven, Teesside

Transportation - note

begun in 1988 and completed in 1994, the Channel Tunnel (nicknamed the Chunnel) is a 50.5-km (31.4-mi) rail tunnel beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover that runs from Folkestone, Kent, England to Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais in northern France; it is the only fixed link between the island of Great Britain and mainland Europe

Military and Security

Military and security forces

British Army, Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines), Royal Air Force (2021)

note - in 2021 the UK formed a joint service Space Command staffed by Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel, as well as civilians and key members of the commercial sector to manage space operations, training, and capabilities; in 2019, the UK formed the Strategic Command (formerly Joint Forces Command) to develop and manage the British military's medical services, training and education, defense intelligence, and information systems across the land, sea, air, space, and cyber domains; national-level special forces (UK Special Forces, UKSF) also fall under Strategic Command; in addition, the command manages joint overseas operations

Military expenditures

2.32% of GDP (2020 est.)

2.1% of GDP (2019)

2.11% of GDP (2018)

2.09% of GDP (2017)

2.08% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 42

Military and security service personnel strengths

the British military has approximately 194,000 total active troops (120,500 Army, including about 4,000 Gurkhas; 40,500 Navy, including about 7,000 Royal Marines; 38,000 Air Force) (2021)

note(s) - the total includes 149,000 Regular Forces and approximately 37,000 Volunteer Reserves (30,000 Army; 4,000 Navy; 3000 Air Force) and some 8,000 "Other Personnel" (4,500 Army; 2,500 Navy; 1,000 Air Force)

Volunteer Reserves voluntarily accept an annual training commitment and are liable to be mobilized to deploy on operations; they can be utilized on a part-time or full-time basis to provide support to the Regular Forces at home and overseas; "Other Personnel" include the Serving Regular Reserve, Sponsored Reserve, Military Provost Guard Service, Locally Engaged Personnel, and elements of the UK Full-time Reserve Service

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the inventory of the British military is comprised of a mix of domestically-produced and imported Western weapons systems; the US is the leading supplier of armaments to the UK since 2010; the UK defense industry is capable of producing a wide variety of air, land, and sea weapons systems and is one of the world's top weapons suppliers (2020)

Military deployments

approximately 1,000 Brunei; approximately 400 Canada (BATUS); approximately 2,200 Cyprus; 250 Cyprus (UNFICYP); 830 Estonia (NATO); approx. 1,200 Falkland Islands; est. 200 Germany (note - previously about 2,500, but the UK withdrew all but 200 troops by the end of 2020); 570 Gibraltar; approx. 1,400 Middle East (coalition against ISIS; NATO); up to 350 Kenya (BATUK); approx. 400 Mali (EUTM, MINUSMA, and Operation Barkhane); 150 Poland (NATO) (2021)

Military service age and obligation

slight variations by service, but generally 16-36 years of age for enlisted (with parental consent under 18) and 18-29 for officers; minimum length of service 4 years; women serve in military services including ground combat roles; conscription abolished in 1963 (2021)

Military - note

the UK is a member of NATO and was one of the original 12 countries to sign the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty) in 1949

in 2010, France and the UK signed a declaration on defense and security cooperation that included greater military interoperability and a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), a deployable, combined Anglo-French military force for use in a wide range of crisis scenarios, up to and including high intensity combat operations; the CJEF has no standing forces, but would be available at short notice for UK-French bilateral, NATO, EU, UN, or other operations; combined training exercises began in 2011; as of 2020, the CJEF was assessed as having full operating capacity with the ability to rapidly deploy over 10,000 personnel capable of high intensity operations, peacekeeping, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance

in 2014, the UK led the formation of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a pool of high-readiness military forces from Baltic and Scandinavian countries able to respond to a wide range of contingencies both in peacetime and in times of crisis or conflict; its principal geographic area of interest is the High North, North Atlantic, and Baltic Sea regions, where the JEF can complement national capabilities or NATO’s deterrence posture, although it is designed to be flexible and prepared to respond to humanitarian crises further afield; the JEF consists of 10 countries (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the UK) and was declared operational in 2018; most of the forces in the pool are British, and the UK provides the most rapidly deployable units as well as the command and control elements


Terrorist group(s)

Continuity Irish Republican Army; Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS); New Irish Republican Army

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

in 2002, Gibraltar residents voted overwhelmingly by referendum to reject any "shared sovereignty" arrangement between the UK and Spain; the Government of Gibraltar insisted on equal participation in talks between the two countries; Spain disapproved of UK plans to grant Gibraltar greater autonomy; Mauritius and Seychelles claim the Chagos Archipelago (British Indian Ocean Territory); in 2001, the former inhabitants of the archipelago, evicted 1967 - 1973, were granted UK citizenship and the right of return, followed by Orders in Council in 2004 that banned rehabitation, a High Court ruling reversed the ban, a Court of Appeal refusal to hear the case, and a Law Lords' decision in 2008 denied the right of return; in addition, the UK created the world's largest marine protection area around the Chagos islands prohibiting the extraction of any natural resources therein; UK rejects sovereignty talks requested by Argentina, which still claims the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory) overlaps Argentine claim and partially overlaps Chilean claim; Iceland, the UK, and Ireland dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 20,433 (Iran), 14,016 (Eritrea), 10,994 (Sudan), 10,919 (Syria), 9,351 (Afghanistan), 8,350 (Pakistan), 6,399 (Iraq), 5,338 (Sri Lanka) (2020)

stateless persons: 4,662 (2020)

Illicit drugs

consumer and transit country for illicit drugs; cocaine and heroin consumption rates among Europe’s highest; criminal organizations engage in domestic drug trafficking and financial crimes; drug use remains linked to serious violence; major source of precursor chemicals used in the production of illicit narcotics