United Kingdom

ukflagAs the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland played a leading role in developing parliamentary democracy and in advancing literature and science. At its zenith, the British Empire stretched over one-fourth of the earth's surface. The first half of the 20th century saw the UK's strength seriously depleted in two World Wars 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, a founding member of NATO, and of the Commonwealth, the UK pursues a global approach to foreign policy; it currently is weighing the degree of its integration with continental Europe. A member of the EU, it chose to remain outside the Economic and Monetary Union for the time being. Constitutional reform is also a significant issue in the UK. The Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly were established in 1999, but the latter was suspended until May 2007 due to wrangling over the peace process.

ukLocation: 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.

Environment - current issues:

continues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (has met Kyoto Protocol target of a 12.5% reduction
1990 levels and intends to meet the legally binding target and move toward a domestic goal of a 20%
cut in emissions by 2010); by 2005 the government reduced the amount of industrial and commercial
waste disposed of in landfill sites to 85% of 1998 levels and recycled or composted at least 25% of
household waste, increasing to 33% by 2015
Environment - international agreements:

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants,
Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental
Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity,
Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species,
Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Marine
Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber
94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements.

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.
The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quintet of trillion dollar economies of Western Europe. Over the past two decades, the government has 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 less than 2% of the labor force. The UK has large coal, natural gas, and oil reserves; primary energy production accounts for 10% 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. Since emerging from recession in 1992, Britain's economy has enjoyed the longest period of expansion on record; growth has remained in the 2-3% range since 2004, outpacing most of Europe. The economy's strength has complicated the Labor government's efforts to make a case for Britain to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Critics point out that the economy is doing well outside of EMU, and public opinion polls show a majority of Britons are opposed to the euro. The BROWN government has been speeding up the improvement of education, health services, and affordable housing at a cost in higher taxes and a widening public deficit.

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.

Merchant marine:

total: 474 ships (1000 GRT or over) 11,723,618 GRT/12,315,588 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 26, cargo 60, carrier 4, chemical tanker 56, container 156, liquefied gas 18, passenger 10, passenger/cargo 62, petroleum tanker 27, refrigerated cargo 17, roll on/roll off 24, vehicle carrier 14
foreign-owned: 242 (Australia 1, Cyprus 1, Denmark 61, Finland 1, France 9, Germany 71, Greece 6, Hong Kong 2, Ireland 1, Italy 4, Japan 1, Netherlands 2, NZ 1, Norway 33, South Africa 4, Sweden 19, Switzerland 1, Taiwan 11, Turkey 2, US 11)
registered in other countries: 412 (Algeria 12, Antigua and Barbuda 4, Argentina 4, Australia 2, Bahamas 68, Barbados 3, Bermuda 20, Brunei 8, Cape Verde 1, Cayman Islands 9, Cyprus 21, Faroe Islands 1, Gibraltar 3, Greece 15, Hong Kong 32, India 1, Indonesia 3, Italy 7, South Korea 1, Liberia 74, Luxembourg 7, Malta 12, Marshall Islands 17, Netherlands 7, Norway 9, Panama 35, Papua New Guinea 6, Singapore 13, Slovakia 1, St Vincent and The Grenadines 9, Sweden 2, Thailand 3, Tonga 1, US 1, unknown 1) (2007).

Military service age and obligation:

16-33 years of age (officers 17-28) for voluntary military service (with parental consent under 18); women serve in military services, but are excluded from ground combat positions and some naval postings; must be citizen of the UK, Commonwealth, or Republic of Ireland; reservists serve a minimum of 3 years, to age 45 or 55; 16 years of age for voluntary military service by Nepalese citizens in the Brigade of the Gurkhas; 16-34 years of age for voluntary military service by Papua New Guinean citizens (2008).

References:
www.fco.gov.uk/
www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3846.htm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1038758.stm

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