Overview of UK

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country in north-western Europe, off the north-­western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-­eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands within the British Isles.

  • Country name: The United Kingdom
  • Capital: London
  • Area: 243,610 km2
  • Population: 64,1 million (2014)
  • Currency: Pound sterling (GBP)
  • Time zone: GMT (UTC+0); in summer: BST (UTC+1)
  • Language: English

Geography & Climate

The UK lies between the North Atlantic and the North Sea, and comes within 35 km (22 mi) of the north-west coast of France, from which it is separated by the English Channel.

England accounts for just over half of the total area of the UK, covering 130,395 square kilometres (50,350 sq mi). Most of the country consists of lowland terrain, with more upland and some mountainous terrain northwest of the Tees-Exe line; including the Cumbrian mountains at the Lake District, the Pennines, Exmoor and Dartmoor. The main rivers and estuaries are the Thames, Severn and the Humber. England’s highest mountain is Scafell Pike (978 metres (3,209 ft)) in the Lake District.

Scotland accounts for just under one-third of the total area of the UK, covering 78,772 square kilometres (30,410 sq mi). This includes nearly 800 islands, predominantly west and north of the mainland; notably the Hebrides, Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands.

Wales accounts for less than one-tenth of the total area of the UK, covering 20,779 square kilometres (8,020 sq mi). Wales is mostly mountainous, though South Wales is less mountainous than North and mid Wales. The main population and industrial areas are in South Wales.

Northern Ireland, separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea and North Channel, has an area of 14,160 square kilometres (5,470 sq mi) and is mostly hilly. It includes Lough Neagh which, at 388 square kilometres (150 sq mi), is the largest lake in the British Isles by area. The highest peak in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in the Mourne Mountains at 852 metres (2,795 ft).

Most of the United Kingdom has a temperate climate, with generally cool temperatures and plentiful rainfall all year round. The temperature varies with the seasons seldom dropping below -11 °C (12 °F) or rising above 35 °C (95 °F). The prevailing wind is from the southwest and bears frequent spells of mild and wet weather from the Atlantic Ocean, although the eastern parts are mostly sheltered from this wind since the majority of the rain falls over the western regions the eastern parts are therefore the driest. Atlantic currents, warmed by the Gulf Stream, bring mild winters; especially in the west where winters are wet and even more so over high ground. Summers are warmest in the southeast of England and coolest in the north. Heavy snowfall can occur in winter and early spring on high ground, and occasionally settles to great depth away from the hills.


The economy of the United Kingdom is a highly developed social market and market-oriented economy. Based on the market exchange rate, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2009 was the sixth-largest economy in the world and the third-largest in Europe after Germany and France.

The service sector dominates, contributing 73% of GDP to the UK (2006). London is one of the three “leading centers” of the global economy (with New York and Tokyo), is the world’s biggest financial center along with New York, and is a country with the highest GDP in Europe.

The automotive industry is an important part of manufacting sector of the UK, creating jobs for more than 800,000 people, with the revenue of some 52 billion pound (2011). The UK’s aerospace industry is the second or third biggest in the world depending on which calculation method. Its pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in the economy, this nation has the third-highest spending rate on pharmaceutical R&D in the world (after the US and Japan).
Agriculture in the UK is intensive, highly mechanised, and efficient by European standards. The country produces about 50% of its food needs with less than 1.6% labour force.


The United Kingdom is a unitary state under a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth II is the monarch and head of state of the UK, as well as 15 other independent countries. The monarch has “the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn”.

The prime minister is the head of government in the United Kingdom, and is the most competent individual in controlling speaking in the House of Commons. They are normally the leader of the political party with the most seats in the House of Commons. The prime minister selects a cabinet and is officially appointed by the monarch to form Her Majesty’s Government. Normally, the Queen respects all decisions of the prime minister in the government.


Whilst education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education, the day-to-day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of local localities. Universally free of charge state education was introduced piecemeal between 1870 and 1944. Education is now mandatory from ages 5 to 16 (15 if born in the end of July or August). In 2011, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rated 13-year-old to 14-year-old pupils in England and Wales 10th in the world for maths and 9th for science. In 2010, over 45% of criteria at the University of Oxford and 40% at the University of Cambridge were taken by students from private schools, while the proportion of students in state schools accounted for 7%. The UK has two most ancient universities in the English world, which are the university of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, with the history of over 8 centuries. The UK has 9 universities in the top 100 universities rated by Times Higher Education in 2013, with its quantity only after the US.


The culture of the United Kingdom has been influenced by many factors including: the nation’s island status; its history as a western liberal democracy and a major power; as well as being a political union of four countries with each preserving elements of distinctive traditions, customs and symbolism. As a result of the British Empire, British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies including Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States and Australia. The substantial cultural influence of the United Kingdom has led it to be described as a “cultural superpower”.