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United Kingdom Flag

United Kingdom Flag
Flag of United Kingdom
United Kingdom flags for displaying indoors or out.
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United Kingdom

United Kingdom Background

Great Britain, the dominant industrial and maritime power of the 19th century, 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. 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 European 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.

United Kingdom Economy

The UK, a leading trading power and financial center, is one of the quartet 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 only 1% 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. GDP growth slipped in 2001-03 as the global downturn, the high value of the pound, and the bursting of the "new economy" bubble hurt manufacturing and exports. Still, the economy is one of the strongest in Europe; inflation, interest rates, and unemployment remain low. The relatively good economic performance has complicated the BLAIR government's efforts to make a case for Britain to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). Critics point out, however, that the economy is doing well outside of EMU, and they point to public opinion polls that continue to show a majority of Britons opposed to the single currency. Meantime, the government has been speeding up the improvement of education, transport, and health services, at a cost in higher taxes. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, together with the subsequent problems of restoring the economy and the polity, involve a heavy commitment of British military forces.

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

United Kingdom Flag

blue field 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); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, as well as British overseas territories


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