Great Britain


Great Britain [Country flag of United Kingdom]
[Country map of United Kingdom]



Location: 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

Map references: Europe

total: 244,820 sq km
land: 241,590 sq km
water : 3,230 sq km
note: includes Rockall and Shetland Islands

Area - comparative: slightly smaller than Oregon

Land boundaries:
total: 360 km
border countries : Ireland 360 km

Coastline: 12,429 km

Maritime claims:
continental shelf : as defined in continental shelf orders or in accordance with agreed upon boundaries
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
territorial sea: 12 nm

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

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

Elevation extremes:
lowest point : Fenland -4 m
highest point: Ben Nevis 1,343 m

Natural resources: coal, petroleum, natural gas, tin, limestone, iron ore, salt, clay, chalk, gypsum, lead, silica

Land use:
arable land: 25%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 46%
forests and woodland : 10%
other: 19% (1993 est.)

Irrigated land: 1,080 sq km (1993 est.)

Natural hazards: NA

Environment - current issues: sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants contribute to air pollution; some rivers polluted by agricultural wastes and coastal waters polluted because of large-scale disposal of sewage at sea

Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note: lies near vital North Atlantic sea lanes; only 35 km from France and now linked by tunnel under the English Channel; because of heavily indented coastline, no location is more than 125 km from tidal waters


Population: 57,591,677 (July 1997 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 19% (male 5,647,549; female 5,386,750)
15-64 years : 65% (male 18,532,243; female 18,757,168)
65 years and over: 16% (male 3,808,399; female 5,459,568) (July 1997 est.)

Population growth rate: 0.24% (1997 est.)

Birth rate: 11.83 births/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Death rate: 10.77 deaths/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Net migration rate: 1.32 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1997 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth : 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years : 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.94 male(s)/female (1997 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 6 deaths/1,000 live births (1997 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 77.25 years
male: 74.67 years
female: 79.96 years (1997 est.)

Total fertility rate: 1.65 children born/woman (1997 est.)

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

Ethnic groups: English 81.5%, Scottish 9.6%, Irish 2.4%, Welsh 1.9%, Ulster 1.8%, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, and other 2.8%

Religions: Anglican 27 million, Roman Catholic 9 million, Muslim 1 million, Presbyterian 800,000, Methodist 760,000, Sikh 400,000, Hindu 350,000, Jewish 300,000 (1991 est.)
note: the UK does not include a question on religion in its census

Languages: English, Welsh (about 26% of the population of Wales), Scottish form of Gaelic (about 60,000 in Scotland)

definition: age 15 and over has completed five or more years of schooling
total population: 99% (1978 est.)
male: NA%
female : NA%


Country name:
conventional long form: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
conventional short form: United Kingdom
abbreviation: UK

Data code: UK

Government type: constitutional monarchy

National capital: London

Administrative divisions: 47 counties, 7 metropolitan counties, 26 districts, 9 regions, and 3 islands areas; England - 39 counties, 7 metropolitan counties*; Avon, Bedford, Berkshire, Buckingham, Cambridge, Cheshire, Cleveland, Cornwall, Cumbria, Derby, Devon, Dorset, Durham, East Sussex, Essex, Gloucester, Greater London*, Greater Manchester*, Hampshire, Hereford and Worcester, Hertford, Humberside, Isle of Wight, Kent, Lancashire, Leicester, Lincoln, Merseyside*, Norfolk, Northampton, Northumberland, North Yorkshire, Nottingham, Oxford, Shropshire, Somerset, South Yorkshire*, Stafford, Suffolk, Surrey, Tyne and Wear*, Warwick, West Midlands*, West Sussex, West Yorkshire*, Wiltshire; Northern Ireland - 26 districts; Antrim, Ards, Armagh, Ballymena, Ballymoney, Banbridge, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Coleraine, Cookstown, Craigavon, Down, Dungannon, Fermanagh, Larne, Limavady, Lisburn, Londonderry, Magherafelt, Moyle, Newry and Mourne, Newtownabbey, North Down, Omagh, Strabane; Scotland - 9 regions, 3 islands areas*; Borders, Central, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Grampian, Highland, Lothian, Orkney*, Shetland*, Strathclyde, Tayside, Western Isles*; Wales - 8 counties; Clwyd, Dyfed, Gwent, Gwynedd, Mid Glamorgan, Powys, South Glamorgan, West Glamorgan

Dependent areas: Anguilla, Bermuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey,  Jersey, Isle of Man, Montserrat, Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands

Independence: 1 January 1801 (United Kingdom established)

National holiday: Celebration of the Birthday of the Queen (second Saturday in June)

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

Legal system: common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; no judicial review of Acts of Parliament; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations

Suffrage: 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 Tony BLAIR (since 2 May 1997)
cabinet: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: none; the queen is a hereditary monarch; prime minister is the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons and must have the consent of the monarch

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of House of Lords (1,200 seats; four-fifths of the members are hereditary peers, two archbishops, 24 other senior bishops, serving and retired Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, other life peers, Scottish peers) and House of Commons (659 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Lords - no elections; House of Commons - last held 1 May 1997 (next to be held by NA May 2002)
election results: House of Commons - percent of vote by party - Labor 44.5%, Conservative 31%, Liberal Democratic 17%, other 7.5%; seats by party - Labor 418, Conservative 165, Liberal Democratic 46, other 30

Judicial branch: House of Lords, several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch for life

Political parties and leaders: Conservative and Unionist Party [John MAJOR]; Labor Party [Anthony (Tony) Blair]; Liberal Democrats or LD [Jeremy (Paddy) ASHDOWN]; Scottish National Party [Alex SALMOND]; Welsh National Party (Plaid Cymru) [Dafydd Iwan WIGLEY]; Ulster Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [David TRIMBLE]; Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) [Rev. Ian PAISLEY]; Social Democratic and Labor Party or SDLP (Northern Ireland) [John HUME]; Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland) [Gerry ADAMS]; Alliance Party (Northern Ireland) [Lord ALDERDICE]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Trades Union Congress; Confederation of British Industry; National Farmers' Union; Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

International organization participation: AfDB, AG (observer), AsDB, Australia Group, BIS, C, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE, CERN, EBRD, ECA (associate), ECE, ECLAC, EIB, ESA, ESCAP, EU, FAO, G- 5, G- 7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, MTCR, NACC, NATO, NEA, NSG, OECD, OSCE, PCA, UN, UN Security Council, UNAVEM III, UNCTAD, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTAES, UNU, UPU, WCL, WEU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sir John Olav KERR (will return to London in late 1997)
chancery: 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone : [1] (202) 588-6500
FAX: [1] (202) 588-7870
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco
consulate(s): Dallas, Miami, and Seattle

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador William J. CROWE, Jr.
embassy: 24/31 Grosvenor Square, London, W. 1A1AE
mailing address: PSC 801, Box 40, London; FPO AE 09498-4040
telephone: [44] (71) 499-9000
FAX : [44] (71) 409-1637
consulate(s) general: Belfast, Edinburgh

Flag description: blue 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); known as the Union Flag or Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including dependencies, Commonwealth countries, and others


Economy - overview: The UK is one of the world's great trading powers and financial centers, and its essentially capitalistic economy ranks among the four largest in Western Europe. Over the past 17 years the ruling Tories have greatly reduced public ownership and contained the growth of social welfare programs. Agriculture is intensive, highly mechanized, and efficient by European standards, producing about 60% of food needs with only about 1% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 12% of GDP, one of the highest shares of any industrial nation. Services, particularly banking, insurance, and business services, account by far for the largest proportion of GDP while industry continues to decline in importance, now employing only 25% of the work force. The economy registered 3.9% GDP growth in 1994, the best rate for six years, but slipped back to 2.7% in 1995 and 2.4% in 1996. Exports and manufacturing output have been the primary engines of growth. Unemployment is gradually falling. Inflation is a comfortable 2.6%. A major economic policy question for the UK in the late 1990s is the terms on which it participates in the financial and economic integration of Europe.

GDP: purchasing power parity - $1.19 trillion (1996 est.)

GDP - real growth rate: 2.4% (1996 est.)

GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $20,400 (1996 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.9%
industry: 34.1%
services : 64% (1994 est.)

Inflation rate - consumer price index: 2.6% (1996 est.)

Labor force:
total : 28.1 million (September 1996)
by occupation: services 62.8%, manufacturing and construction 25.0%, government 9.1%, energy 1.9%, agriculture 1.2% (June 1992)

Unemployment rate: 6.7% (December 1996)

revenues : $421.5 billion
expenditures: $474.9 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY95/96 est.)

Industries: production machinery including 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, and other consumer goods

Industrial production growth rate: 1% (1996 est.)

Electricity - capacity: 66.15 million kW (1994)

Electricity - production: 327.7 billion kWh (1995)

Electricity - consumption per capita: 5,178 kWh (1995 est.)

Agriculture - products: cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables; cattle, sheep, poultry; fish

total value: $240.4 billion (f.o.b., 1995)
commodities : manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, chemicals, semifinished goods, transport equipment
partners: EU countries 56.4% (Germany 12.7%, France 9.9%, Netherlands 7.0%), US 13.1% (1994)

total value : $258.8 billion (f.o.b., 1995)
commodities: manufactured goods, machinery, semifinished goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
partners: EU countries 54.9% (Germany 14.6%, France 10.0%, Netherlands 6.7%), US 12.2% (1994)

Debt - external: $16.2 billion (June 1992)

Economic aid:
donor: ODA, $2.908 billion (1993)

Currency: 1 British pound () = 100 pence

Exchange rates: British pounds () per US$1 - 0.6023 (January 1997), 0.6403 (1996), 0.6335 (1995), 0.6529 (1994), 0.6658 (1993), 0.5664 (1992)

Fiscal year: 1 April - 31 March


Telephones: 29.5 million (1987 est.)

Telephone system: technologically advanced domestic and international system
domestic: equal mix of buried cables, microwave radio relay, and fiber-optic systems
international: 40 coaxial submarine cables; 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

Radio broadcast stations: AM 225, FM 525 (mostly repeaters), shortwave 0

Radios: 70 million

Television broadcast stations: 207 (repeaters 3,210)

Televisions: 20 million


total : 17,561 km
broad gauge: 434 km 1.600-m gauge (190 km double track); note - all 1.600-m gauge track, of which 357 km is in common carrier use, is in Northern Ireland
standard gauge: 16,892 km 1.435-m gauge (4,928 km electrified; 12,591 km double or multiple track); note - 16,532 km of 1.435-m routes are in common carrier service; the remaining 360 km are operated by a total of 40 tourist or other private companies
narrow gauge: 235 km 0.260-m, 0.311-m, 0.381-m, 0.600-m, 0.610-m, 0.686-m, 0.760-m, 0.762-m, 0.800-m, 0.825-m, 0.914-m and 1.067-m gauges; note - these short, narrow-gage lines are operated by a total of 25 tourist and other private firms (1995)

total: 388,831 km (1994 est.)
paved: NA km (including 3,284 km of expressways)
unpaved: NA km

Waterways: 3,200 km under British Waterways Board

Pipelines: crude oil (almost all insignificant) 933 km; petroleum products 2,993 km; natural gas 12,800 km

Ports and harbors: Aberdeen, Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Grangemouth, Hull, Leith, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sullom Voe, Tees, Tyne

Merchant marine:
total: 150 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 2,719,891 GRT/3,246,718 DWT
ships by type: bulk 8, cargo 28, chemical tanker 2, container 21, liquefied gas tanker 2, oil tanker 54, passenger 8, passenger-cargo 1, refrigerated tanker 1, roll-on/roll-off cargo 12, short-sea passenger 12, specialized tanker 1 (1996 est.)

Airports: 387 (1996 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 366
over 3,047 m: 9
2,438 to 3,047 m: 29
1,524 to 2,437 m: 103
914 to 1,523 m: 59
under 914 m: 166 (1996 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total : 21
914 to 1,523 m: 21 (1996 est.)

Heliports: 12 (1996 est.)


Military branches: Army, Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines), Royal Air Force

Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 13,829,704 (1997 est.)

Military manpower - fit for military service:
males : 11,527,058 (1997 est.)

Military expenditures - dollar figure: $35.1 billion (FY95/96)

Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 3.1% (FY95/96)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international: Northern Ireland question with Ireland; Gibraltar question with Spain; Argentina claims Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas); Argentina claims South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Mauritius claims island of Diego Garcia in British Indian Ocean Territory; Rockall continental shelf dispute involving Denmark, Iceland, and Ireland (Ireland and the UK have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area); territorial claim in Antarctica (British Antarctic Territory)

Illicit drugs: gateway country for Latin American cocaine entering the European market; producer of synthetic drugs, precursor chemicals; transshipment point for Southwest Asian heroin; money-laundering center