United Kingdom

Languages: English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic
Ethnicity: English 83.6%, Scottish 8.6%, Welsh 4.9%; Northern Irish 2.9%, black 2%, Indian 1.8%, Pakistani 1.3%, mixed 1.2%, other 1.6% (2001)
Religions: Christian (Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist) 71.6%, Muslim 2.7%, Hindu 1%, other 1.6%, unspecified or none 23.1% (2001)
Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)
Sovereign: Queen Elizabeth II (1952)
Prime Minister: David Cameron (2010)
Capital and largest city: London
Currency: Pound sterling
Economic summary

GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $2.288 trillion; per capita $36,500. Real growth rate: 0.8%. Inflation: 4.5%. Unemployment: 8.1%. Arable land: 23%. Agriculture: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish. Labor force: 31.72 million; agriculture 1.4%, industry 18.2%, services 80.4% (2006). Industries: 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. Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica, arable land. Exports: $479.2 billion (2011 est.): manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco. Imports: $639 billion (2011 est.): manufactured goods, machinery, fuels; foodstuffs. Major trading partners: U.S., Germany, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, China (2011).

Communications

Telephones: main lines in use: 33.23 million (2011); mobile cellular: 81.612 million (2012). Radio broadcast stations: 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 (2008). Radios: 84.5 million (1997). Television broadcast stations: 228 (plus 3,523 repeaters) (1995). Televisions: 30.5 million (1997). Internet Hosts: 8.107 million (2012). Internet users: 51.444 million (2009).

Transportation

Railways: total: 16,454 km (2008). Highways: total: 394,428 km; paved: 394,248 km (including 3,519 km of expressways); unpaved: 0 km (2009). Waterways: 3,200 km. Ports and harbors: Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Dover, Falmouth, Felixstowe, Glasgow, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Peterhead, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Scapa Flow, Southampton, Sullom Voe, Teesport, Tyne. Airports: 462 (2012).

Geography

The United Kingdom, consisting of Great Britain (England, Wales, and Scotland ) and Northern Ireland , is twice the size of New York State. England, in the southeast part of the British Isles, is separated from Scotland on the north by the granite Cheviot Hills; from them the Pennine chain of uplands extends south through the center of England, reaching its highest point in the Lake District in the northwest. To the west along the border of Wales—a land of steep hills and valleys—are the Cambrian Mountains, while the Cotswolds, a range of hills in Gloucestershire, extend into the surrounding shires.
Important rivers flowing into the North Sea are the Thames, Humber, Tees, and Tyne. In the west are the Severn and Wye, which empty into the Bristol Channel and are navigable, as are the Mersey and Ribble.

Government

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, with a queen and a parliament that has two houses: the House of Lords, with 574 life peers, 92 hereditary peers, and 26 bishops; and the House of Commons, which has 651 popularly elected members. Supreme legislative power is vested in parliament, which sits for five years unless dissolved sooner. The House of Lords was stripped of most of its power in 1911, and now its main function is to revise legislation. In Nov. 1999, hundreds of hereditary peers were expelled in an effort to make the body more democratic. The executive power of the Crown is exercised by the cabinet, headed by the prime minister.
England has existed as a unified entity since the 10th century; the union between England and Wales, begun in 1284 with the Statute of Rhuddlan, was not formalized until 1536 with an Act of Union; in another Act of Union in 1707, England and Scotland agreed to permanently join as Great Britain ; the legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was implemented in 1801, with the adoption of the name the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 formalized a partition of Ireland; six northern Irish counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland and the current name of the country, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, was adopted in 1927.