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A map of the United Kingdom

Countries of the United Kingdom is a term used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales: these four together form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, itself described as a country, and constituting a sovereign state.[1][2] While "countries" is the commonly used descriptive term,[3] owing to the lack of a formal British constitution, and the protracted and complex history of the formation of the United Kingdom, the countries of the UK have no official appellation. As a consequence, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not formal subdivisions of the United Kingdom[4] and various terms are used to describe them.

As a sovereign state, the United Kingdom is the entity which is used in intergovernmental organisations, and as the representative member state within the European Union and United Nations, as well as under international law; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However, England, Scotland and Wales have separate national governing bodies for sport, meaning, they can compete individually in international sporting competitions; in sporting contexts, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are known as the Home Nations.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom and government of the United Kingdom deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland and Scotland and all non-transferred matters for Wales, but not in general on matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. England remains the full responsibility of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which is centralised in London. Unionism and nationalism play important roles in the politics of the United Kingdom. There is a split in perceptions as to the future of the countries of the UK as under one sovereign power, in a federation, or as independent states.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the United Kingdom but not part of the UK or of the European Union. Collectively, the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are known in UK law as the British Islands. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state formed from the portion of Ireland that seceded from the United Kingdom in 1921. Although part of the geographical British Isles,[5] it is no longer a part of the UK. For most sports, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland compete as a single international team representing Ireland (exceptions being Northern Ireland national football team and Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games).




Flag Area
(2001 census)

England Flag of England.svg 130,395 49.1 million London No Combined
with Wales
None 13,843  1.7 million Belfast Yes Separate
Scotland Flag of Scotland.svg 78,772  5.1 million Edinburgh Yes Separate
Wales Flag of Wales 2.svg 20,779  3.0 million Cardiff Yes Combined
with England
United Kingdom Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  243,789  58.9 million London


Various terms have been used to describe England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.[citation needed]


Acts of Union

Personal and legislative unions of the

constituent countries of the United Kingdom

  • The Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542 annexed the legal system of Wales to England[6] to create the single entity commonly known today as England and Wales. Wales was described as the "Country, Principality and Dominion", "Dominion of Wales"[6] or the "Dominion, Principality and Country" or "Dominion and Principality" of Wales[7]. Outside of Wales, England was not given a specific name or term.
  • The Acts of Union 1707 refer to both England and Scotland as a "Part of the united Kingdom"[8]
  • The Acts of Union 1800 use "Part" in the same way. They also use "Country" to describe Great Britain and Ireland respectively, when describing trade between them[9]
  • The Government of Ireland Act 1920 does not use any term or description to classify Northern Ireland nor indeed Great Britain.
Current legal terminology

The Interpretation Act 1978 provides some definitions for terms relating the countries of the United Kingdom. Use of these terms in other legislation is interpreted following the definitions in the 1978 Act. The definitions are listed below

  • "England" means, subject to any alteration of boundaries under Part IV of the Local Government Act 1972, the area consisting of the counties established by section 1 of that Act, Greater London and the Isles of Scilly." This definition applies from 1 April 1974.
  • "United Kingdom" means "Great Britain and Northern Ireland." This definition applies from 12 April 1927.
  • "Wales" means the combined area of 13 historic counties,[citation needed] including Monmouthshire, re-formulated into 8 new counties under section 20 of the Local Government Act 1972, as originally enacted, but subject to any alteration made under section 73 of that Act (consequential alteration of boundary following alteration of watercourse). In 1996 these 8 new counties were redistributed into the current 22 unitary authorities.
  • In the Scotland Act 1998 there is no delineation of Scotland, with the definition in section 126 simply providing that Scotland includes "so much of the internal waters and territorial sea of the United Kingdom as are adjacent to Scotland".[citation needed]

Identity and nationality

The United Kingdom is generally considered to be a close union by its inhabitants, with shared values, language, currency and culture, and with people moving and working freely throughout.[10] Many citizens of the UK cite "Britain" or "United Kingdom" as their country and "British" as their nationality. Others identify solely with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales, while many identify primarily with one of these, but hold a sense of 'Britishness' in equal or high esteem.[11] People with parents and backgrounds of mixed nationality can ally with more than one of the constituent countries. Many people in Northern Ireland strongly identify with being British, and a large minority cite their sole nationality as "Irish", while others identify with both cultures, and others primarily with Northern Ireland itself. UK citizens with ethnic minority backgrounds (especially those descended from the Commonwealth of Nations) can often identify with the nationality of their ancestors, while having (or sharing) a UK identity in any of its strengths or forms.

The propensity for nationalistic feeling varies greatly across the UK, and can rise and fall over time.[12] Following devolution and the significant broadening of autonomous governance throughout the UK in the late 1990s, debate has taken place across the United Kingdom on the relative value of full independence.[13]

See also



  1. ^ "Countries within a country". 10 Downing Street. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  2. ^ "List of all Sovereign Nations and their Capital Cities". 
  3. ^ Scottish Parliament. "Your Scotland questions; Is Scotland a country?". Retrieved 2008-08-01. "As the UK has no written constitution in the usual sense, constitutional terminology is fraught with difficulties of interpretation and it is common usage nowadays to describe the four constituent parts of the UK (Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland) as “countries”." 
  4. ^ United Nations Economic and Social Council (August 2007). "Ninth United Nations Conference on the standardization of Geographical Names" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-21. "There is [...] no common stratum of administrative unit encompassing the United Kingdom at this very high level, and England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should not be considered first-order administrative divisions in the conventional sense." 
  5. ^ Gallagher 2006, p. 7.
  6. ^ a b Laws in Wales Act 1535, Clause I
  7. ^ Laws in Wales Act 1542
  8. ^ e.g. "... to be raised in that Part of the united Kingdom now called England", "...that Part of the united Kingdom now called Scotland, shall be charged by the same Act..." Article IX
  9. ^ e.g. "That, from the first Day of January one thousand eight hundred and one, all Prohibitions and Bounties on the Export of Articles, the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of either Country, to the other, shall cease and determine; and that the said Articles shall thenceforth be exported from one Country to the other, without Duty or Bounty on such Export"; Union with Ireland Act 1800, Article Sixth.
  10. ^ "The English question". by Michael Kenny and Richard Hayton, The Institute for Public Policy Research. 
  11. ^ "Why is England or the UK sometimes called Britain?". British Life and Culture. Woodlands Junior School. 
  12. ^ "Devolution, Public Attitudes and National Identity".  "The rise of the Little Englanders". The Guardian, John Carvel, social affairs editor. 
  13. ^ "Devolution and Britishness". Devolution and Constitutional Change. UK's Economic and Social Research Council. 


  • Gallagher, Michael (2006), The United Kingdom Today, London: Franklin Watts, ISBN 9780749664886 

Simple English

The United Kingdom is made up of 4 countries of which England is the largest:


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