United Kingdom of Great Britain Overview

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The United Kingdom, with its research-intensive universities with excellent international networks, is a popular destination for German students and researchers. In addition, its universities are important cooperation partners for German universities and research organizations such as the Max Planck Society (MPG).

united kingdom population - fertility rate

Population / geography

Country name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Capital London
Land area 243,820 km²
Population 66.02 million (2017 estimate)
Population growth 0.6% (2017 estimate)
Languages English (official language), Welsh Gaelic
Religions around 30 million Anglicans (Church of England); around 600,000 Church of Scotland; 0.2 million other Protestants; around 8 million Catholics; around 2 million Muslims, 1.2 million Hindus and Sikhs; 300,000 Jews; 11 million others / without religious affiliation
National day Second Saturday in June (Her Majesties Queen’s Official Birthday)
Time zone CET – 1 (UTC)March to October: CET (UTC + 1).
Currency 1 pound sterling GBP / 100 pence
Prefix +44

Sources: Countryaah.com


Politics / Administration

Country name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Capital London
Form of government Parliamentary monarchy with two chambers
Head of state HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH IIEnthronement: 02/06/1952, coronation: 06/02/1953
Land area 243,820 km²
Head of government Boris JohnsonPrime Minister (took office: July 24, 2019), Conservative Party
Foreign Minister Dominic Raab,Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

(Appointed: July 24, 2019)

Minister of Education Gavin Williamson,Secretary of State for Education

(Appointed: July 24, 2019)

Minister for Economy, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma,Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

(Appointed: February 13, 2020)

Houses of Parliament Bicameral parliament

  • House of Commons (currently 650 seats)
  • House of Lords (currently almost 800 seats)

next regular general election on May 4, 2024

Ruling parties Conservative Party / Conservative Party
Opposition parties
  • Labor Party
  • Liberal Democrats
  • Scottish regional party SNP
  • Democratic Unionist Party
  • Social Democratic and Labor Party
  • welsh regional party plaid cymru
  • Green
  • Alliance Party of Northern Ireland
  • and independents

The lower house members of the Catholic Northern Irish party Sinn Féin do not take their seats.

Administrative structure England: 36 counties, 25 counties and LondonScotland: 32 Unitary Councils

Wales: 22 Unitary Councils

Northern Ireland: 26 counties

The 14 British overseas territories are not part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but are under its sovereignty. The islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Man (“Channel Islands”) are also under the sovereignty of the British Crown as Crown Dependencies.

Constitution / State order

The United Kingdom is a hereditary parliamentary monarchy with a cabinet government accountable to parliament. There is no codified constitution. The crown has predominantly formal powers, while the head of government has a strong position in the cabinet and party.

Head of state has been Queen Elisabeth II since 1952, Prime Minister Theresa May since July 13, 2016 (head of the Conservative Party since July 11, 2016 in the first term of office); Secretary of State is Jeremy Hunt.

The cabinet has around 20 members; Including ministers of state and parliamentary state secretaries, the government consists of around 100 politicians, all of whom must be members of parliament. The largest opposition party in each case traditionally forms a “shadow cabinet”.

The United Kingdom is centrally governed and administered, but in the course of “devolution” (decentralization) since the 1990s, competencies have been transferred to varying degrees to the sub-nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the aftermath of the failed Scottish independence referendum in 2014, further powers were transferred to Scotland, which also have an impact on the devolution structure in the other parts of the country. England, the fourth and largest nation in the United Kingdom, has no executive and legislative branches of its own. For England this is Westminster-Parliament is the only legislative body; however, since the end of October 2015, British MPs have had a de facto veto on matters that only affect England.

The following areas belong to the British Overseas Territories : Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Antarctic Territory, the British Indian Ocean Territories, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St. Helena and dependent territories (Ascension, Tristan da Cunha), South Georgia and the southern Sandwich Islands, the military bases under British sovereignty at Akrotiri and Dhekelia (Cyprus) and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

These Commonwealth Territories are not part of the United Kingdom but are under the British Crown. They have their own legislative, executive and judicial branches as well as their own budget and tax system. With the exception of Gibraltar, the overseas territories are not part of the EU.

The Channel Islands (including Jersey and Guernsey) and the Isle of Man belong to the Crown as crown possessions (“ Crown Dependencie s”), but are neither part of the United Kingdom nor part of its overseas territories, they are not part of the EU.

Parliament, elections and parties

The House of Commons with 650 seats, elected according to the majority system, is the center of political power. The House of Lords has almost 800 members; In addition to a maximum of 92 heirs (nobility) and 26 bishops, these are former politicians, business representatives, artists and scientists who are appointed for life (“ life peers ”) on the proposal of the government. The House of Lords has a suspensive veto right against certain legislative proposals. In 2009 the judicial powers of the “ Law Lords ” of the House of Lords were transferred to the newly created “ Supreme Court ”.

Since the early elections on June 8, 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May has reacted with a minority government (” Hung Parliament “). The Conservative Party currently has 317 seats in the lower house. The minority government is supported by the Northern Irish DUP with 10 seats. The Labor Party currently has 257 seats. In addition, the seats in the lower house are distributed as follows: 35 for Scottish National Party, 12 for Liberal Democrat, 7 for Sinn Féin (vacant), 5 for Independent, 4 for Plaid Cymru and 1 seat for the Green Party and a speaker. By-elections have meanwhile postponed the original allocation of seats.

In September 2011 the ” Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 ” came into force, which introduced fixed legislative periods of 5 years. Since then, the prime minister can no longer dissolve parliament without authorization and have it re-elected. The next regular general election will take place in 2022. City and county council elections are held regularly on the first Thursday in May of each year, as appropriate.

Early elections were held in Northern Ireland on March 2, 2017. A government has not yet been formed due to a lack of agreement. The political landscape in Northern Ireland is shaped by the two camps of Protestant Unionists and Catholic Republicans. The DUP (Unionists) is the strongest force with 28 of a total of 90 seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly (Parliament). Sinn Féin (Republican) has 27 seats.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has ruled Scotland since May 2007. In the Scottish regional elections in 2016, the SNP remained by far the strongest party, but lost an absolute majority and has governed as a minority government ever since. On September 18, 2014, a referendum on the independence of Scotland took place on the basis of the so-called “ Edinburgh Agreement ”, in which 55.3% of those entitled to vote were against independence and 44.7% were in favor. As a result of the referendum, Scotland gained additional delegated powers. By law (3rd Scotland Act) the responsibility for setting and collecting income tax was transferred from London to Edinburgh.

In the 2016 regional elections in Wales, Labor emerged as the strongest party with 29 seats despite votes and lost seats and has led a minority government ever since. The Welsh Assembly in Cardiff has very limited legislative powers compared to the Scottish Parliament, but a referendum held in March 2011 allows it to pass its own legal norms within this limited framework without – as before – having to be approved by the central government in Westminster. In contrast to Scotland, the independence movement is weak in Wales with only 15% supporters.

In the referendum on the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU, voters in Scotland voted with a clear majority of 62% and in Northern Ireland with a majority of 55% to remain in the EU. Voters in Wales voted to leave the EU with a majority of 52.5%.

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