The United Kingdom (UK) consists of England, Wales, Scotland (which collectively make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland. The UK’s geography is varied, and includes cliffs along some coastlines, highlands and lowlands and hundreds of islands off the western and northern coasts of Scotland.
The most important sectors of the UK’s economy in 2012 were public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (19.4 %), wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food services (18.2 %) and industry (14.6 %).
The UK’s main export partners are Germany, the US and the Netherlands, while its main import partners are Germany, China and the Netherlands.
Geographical size: 248 527.8 km²
Population: 63 495 303 (2012)
Population as % of total EU population: 12.6 % (2012)
GDP: € 1.933 trillion (2012)
Official EU language(s): English
Political system: parliamentary constitutional monarchy
EU member country since: 1 January 1973
Seats in the European Parliament: 73
Currency: pound sterling GBP
Schengen area member? No, the UK is not a member of the Schengen Area.
Presidency of the Council: the UK has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 5 times between 1977 and 2005. The next time will be in 2017.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the UK government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of UK presidencies:
Jan-Jun 1977 | Jul-Dec 1981 | Jul-Dec 1992 | Jan-Jun 1998 | Jul-Dec 2005 | Jul-Dec 2017
More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.
The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
The United Kingdom has 24 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
The United Kingdom has 24 representatives on the Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
The UK also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As the United Kingdom's "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of the UK's finances with the EU in 2012:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by the UK helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how the United Kingdom benefits from EU funding.