Compiled from the November 2003 Background Note and supplemented with additional information from the State Department and the editors of this volume. See the introduction to this set for explanatory notes.
Area: 243,000 sq. km. (93,000 sq. mi.); slightly smaller than Oregon.
Cities: Capital—London (metropolitan pop. about 7.4 million). Other cities—Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bradford, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol, Belfast.
Terrain: 30% arable, 50% meadow and pasture, 12% waste or urban, 7% forested, 1% inland water.
Land use: 25% arable, 46% meadows and pastures, 10% forests and woodland, 19% other.
Climate: Generally mild and temperate; weather is subject to frequent changes but to few extremes of temperature.
Nationality: Noun—Briton(s). Adjective—British.
Population: (2002 est.) 59.8 million. Annual population growth rate: (2002 est.) 0.21%.
Major ethnic groups: British, Irish, West Indian, South Asian.
Major languages: English, Welsh, Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic.
Education: Years compulsory—12. Attendance —nearly 100%. Literacy—99%.
Work force: (2000, 28 million) Services—77.1%; manufacturing—14.1%; construction—6.5%; agriculture and fishing—1.7%; energy and water—0.7%.
Type: Constitutional monarchy.
Constitution: Unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice.
Branches: Executive—Monarch (head of state), Prime Minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative—bicameral parliament: House of Commons, House of Lords; Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, and Northern Ireland Assembly. Judicial—magistrates' courts, county courts, high courts, appellate courts, House of Lords.
Sub divisions: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland [Municipalities, counties, and parliamentary constituencies].
Political parties: Great Britain—Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrats; also, in Scotland—Scottish National Party. Wales—Plaid Cymru (Party of Wales). Northern Ireland—Ulster Unionist Party, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Democratic Unionist Party, Sinn Fein, Alliance Party, and other smaller parties.
Suffrage: British subjects and citizens of other Commonwealth countries and the Irish Republic resident in the UK, at 18.
GDP: (GDP at current market prices, 2002) £1.0444 trillion=($1.57 trillion).
Annual growth rate: (2002) 1.8%.
Per capita GDP: (2002)£16,428 ($25,300).
Agriculture: (1.1% of GDP) Products—cereals, oilseed, potatoes, vegetables, cattle, sheep, poultry, fish.
Industry: Types—steel, heavy engineering and metal manufacturing, textiles, motor vehicles and aircraft, construction (5.2% of GDP), electronics, chemicals.
Trade: (2002) Exports of goods and services—£185.9 billion: manufactured goods, fuels, chemicals; food, beverages, tobacco. Major markets—U.S., European Union. Imports of goods and services—£214.4 billion: manufactured goods, machinery, fuels, foodstuffs. Major suppliers—U.S., European Union, Japan.
The United Kingdom's population in 2002 was nearly 60 million—the second-largest in the European Union and the 21th-largest in the world. Its overall population density is one of the highest in the world. Almost one-third of the population lives in England's prosperous and fertile southeast and is predominantly urban and suburban—with about 7.2 million in the capital of London, which remains the largest city in Europe. The United Kingdom's high literacy rate (99%) is attributable to universal public education introduced for the primary level in 1870 and secondary level in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages 5 through 16. About one-fifth of British students go on to post-secondary education. The Church of England and the Church of Scotland are the official churches in their respective parts of the country, but most religions found in the world are represented in the United Kingdom.
A group of islands close to continental Europe, the British Isles have been subject to many invasions and migrations, especially from Scandinavia and the continent, including Roman occupation for several centuries. Contemporary Britons are descended mainly from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended in Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in Northern France. Although Celtic languages persist in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the predominant language is English, which is primarily a blend of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French.
The Roman invasion of Britain in 55 BC and most of Britain's subsequent incorporation into the Roman Empire stimulated development and brought more active contacts with the rest of Europe. As Rome's strength declined, the country again was exposed to invasion—including the pivotal incursions of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes in the fifth and sixth centuries AD—up to the Norman conquest in 1066. Norman rule effectively ensured Britain's safety from further intrusions; certain institutions, which remain characteristic of Britain, could develop. Among these are a political, administrative, cultural, and economic center in London; a separate but established church; a system of common law; distinctive and distinguished university education; and representative government.
Both Wales and Scotland were independent kingdoms that resisted English rule. The English conquest of Wales succeeded in 1282 under Edward I, and the Statute of Rhuddlan established English rule 2 years later. To appease the Welsh, Edward's son (later Edward II), who had been born in Wales, was made Prince of Wales in 1301. The tradition of bestowing this title on the eldest son of the British Monarch continues today. An act of 1536 completed the political and administrative union of England and Wales.
While maintaining separate parliaments, England and Scotland were ruled under one crown beginning in 1603, when James VI of Scotland succeeded his cousin Elizabeth I as James I of England. In the ensuing 100 years, strong religious and political differences divided the kingdoms. Finally, in 1707, England and Scotland were unified as Great Britain, sharing a single Parliament at Westminster.
Ireland's invasion by the Anglo-Normans in 1170 led to centuries of strife. Successive English kings sought to conquer Ireland. In the early 17th century, largescale settlement of the north from Scotland and England began. After its defeat, Ireland was subjected, with varying degrees of success, to control and regulation by Britain.
The legislative union of Great Britain and Ireland was completed on January 1, 1801, under the name of the United Kingdom. However, armed struggle for independence continued sporadically into the 20th century. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 established the Irish Free State, which subsequently left the Commonwealth and became a republic after World War II. Six northern, predominantly Protestant, Irish counties have remained part of the United Kingdom.
British Expansion and Empire
Begun initially to support William the Conqueror's (c. 1029-1087) holdings in France, Britain's policy of active involvement in continental European affairs endured for several hundred years. By the end of the 14th century, foreign trade, originally based on wool exports to Europe, had emerged as a cornerstone of national policy.
The foundations of sea power were gradually laid to protect English trade and open up new routes. Defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 firmly established England as a major sea power. Thereafter, its interests outside Europe grew steadily. Attracted by the spice trade, English mercantile interests spread first to the Far East. In search of an alternate route to the Spice Islands, John Cabot reached the North American continent in 1498. Sir Walter Raleigh organized the first, short-lived colony in Virginia in 1584, and permanent English settlement began in 1607 at Jamestown, Virginia. During the next two centuries, Britain extended its influence abroad and consolidated its political development at home.
Great Britain's industrial revolution greatly strengthened its ability to oppose Napoleonic France. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the United Kingdom was the foremost European power, and its navy ruled the seas. Peace in Europe allowed the British to focus their interests on more remote parts of the world, and, during this period, the British Empire reached its zenith. British colonial expansion reached its height largely during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). Queen Victoria's reign witnessed the spread of British technology, commerce, language, and government throughout the British Empire which, at its greatest extent, encompassed roughly one-fifth to one-quarter of the world's area and population. British colonies contributed to the United Kingdom's extraordinary economic growth and strengthened its voice in world affairs. Even as the United Kingdom extended its imperial reach overseas, it continued to develop and broaden its democratic institutions at home.
By the time of Queen Victoria's death in 1901, other nations, including the United States and Germany, had developed their own industries; the United Kingdom's comparative economic advantage had lessened, and the ambitions of its rivals had grown. The losses and destruction of World War I, the depression of the 1930s, and decades of relatively slow growth eroded the United Kingdom's preeminent international position of the previous century.
Britain's control over its empire loosened during the interwar period.
Ireland, with the exception of six northern counties, gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1921. Nationalism became stronger in other parts of the empire, particularly in India and Egypt.
In 1926, the United Kingdom, completing a process begun a century earlier, granted Australia, Canada, and New Zealand complete autonomy within the empire. They became charter members of the British Commonwealth of Nations (now known as the Commonwealth, an informal but closely knit association that succeeded the empire. Beginning with the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, the remainder of the British Empire was almost completely dismantled. Today, most of Britain's former colonies belong to the Commonwealth, almost all of them as independent members. There are, however, 13 former British colonies—including Bermuda, Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands, and others—which have elected to continue their political links with London and are known as United Kingdom Overseas Territories.
Although often marked by economic and political nationalism, the Commonwealth offers the United Kingdom a voice in matters concerning many developing countries. In addition, the Commonwealth helps preserve many institutions deriving from British experience and models, such as parliamentary democracy, in those countries.
The United Kingdom is one of the United States' closest allies, and British foreign policy emphasizes close coordination with the United States. Bilateral cooperation reflects the common language, ideals, and democratic practices of the two nations. Relations were strengthened by the United Kingdom's alliance with the United States during both World Wars, and its role as a founding member of NATO, in the Korean conflict, and the Persian Gulf War. The United Kingdom and the United States continually consult on foreign policy issues and global problems and share major foreign and security policy objectives. In the United Nations, the United Kingdom is a permanent member of the Security Council.
The United Kingdom is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and has been a member of the European Community (now European Union) since 1973. The United Kingdom is one of NATO's major European maritime, air, and land powers and ranks third among NATO countries in total defense expenditure.
The British Armed Forces are charged with protecting the United Kingdom and its overseas territories, promoting Britain's wider security interests, and supporting international peacekeeping efforts. The 44,000-member Royal Navy is incharge of the United Kingdom's independent strategic nuclear arm, which consists of four Trident missile submarines. The Royal Marines provide commando units for amphibious assault and for specialist reinforcement forces in and beyond the NATO area. The British Army with a reported strength of 110,000 in 1999, including 7,600 women, and the Royal Air Force with a strength of 55,000, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, are active and regular participants in NATO and other coalition operations. The United Kingdom stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States following the September 11th terrorist attacks, and its military forces participated in the war in Afghanistan. The UK was the United States' main coalition partner in Operation Iraqi Freedom and continues to have more than 10,000 troops deployed in Iraq to help stabilize and rebuild the country. Under UNSCR 1483, the UK also shares with the United States responsibility for civil administration in Iraq and is an active participant in the Coalition Provisional Authority. Britain's participation in the Iraq war and its aftermath remains a domestically controversial issue. An intense public debate continues over the justification for the war and the role of the coalition in its aftermath. The United Kingdom has the fourth-largest economy in the world, is the second-largest economy in the European Union, and is a major international trading power. London ranks with New York as a leading international financial center.
The United Kingdom is the fourth-largest market for U.S. goods exports after Canada, Mexico, and Japan and the sixth-largest market for U.S. imports after Canada, China, Mexico, Japan, and Germany. U.S. exports to the United Kingdom in 2002 totaled $37.4 billion, while U.S. imports from the UK totaled $42.2 billion. The United States has had a trade deficit with the United Kingdom since 1998, although the deficit was relatively small prior to last year. The United Kingdom is a large source of foreign tourists in the United States.
The United States and the United Kingdom share the world's largest foreign direct investment partnership. U.S. investment in the United Kingdom reached $255.4 billion in 2002, while U.K. direct investment in the U.S. totaled $283.3 billion. This investment sustains more than a million American jobs.
Since 1979, the British Government has privatized most state-owned companies, including British Steel, British Airways, British Telecom, British Coal, British Aerospace, and British Gas, although in some cases the government retains a "golden share" in these companies. The Labour government has continued the privatization policy of its predecessor, including by encouraging "public-private partnerships" (partial privatization) in such areas as the National Air Traffic Control System. The United Kingdom is an energy-rich nation with significant reserves of oil and gas in the North Sea and the Irish Sea and large coal resources. In 2001, total output of crude oil and natural gas liquids was about 2.6 million barrels making the United Kingdom the world's 10th-largest producer. U.K. offshore areas should be an important source of continued production and new discoveries for some years.
U.S. oil and oil-service companies participate actively in the North Sea oil industry and consider the United Kingdom an attractive environment for future investment.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
London, England (E), 24/31 Grosvenor Sq., W1A 1AE • PSC 801, Box 40; FPO AE 09498-4040, Tel  (20) 7499-9000; ECO Fax 7409-1637; COM/FCS Fax 7408-8020; CON Fax 7495-5012; ADM Fax 7629-9124. Website: www.usembassy.org.uk
|AMB:||William S. Farish|
|AMB OMS:||Jacqueline F. Carter|
|DCM:||Glyn T. Davies|
|POL:||Morton R. Dworken|
|ECO:||Joyce B. Rabens|
|COM:||David K. Katz|
|COM rep to the EBRD:||Alyce Davenport|
|CON:||Thomas P. Furey|
|MGT:||James B. Lane|
|RSO:||Robert G. Reed|
|IMO:||Loren F. File|
|SCI:||Alyce J. Tidball|
|INS:||Edward H. Skerrett|
|DAO:||CAPT David L. Wirt|
|ODC:||COL Joseph B. Niemeyer|
|AGR:||Peter O. Kurz|
|LAB:||Jean A. Bonilla|
|JUS/CIV:||James A. Gresser|
|CUS:||Edward W. Logan|
|DEA:||Michael J. McManamon|
|FAA:||Joseph S. Teixeira|
|FAA/IFO:||Fred A. Stein|
|FIN:||Charles H. Grover|
|SUSLO:||Barbara A. McNamara|
|USSS:||Glen S. Colvin|
|IRS:||J. Paul Beene|
|LEGATT:||A. Lance Emory|
Belfast, Northern Ireland (CG), Queen's House, 14 Queen St., BT1 6EQ • PSC 801, Box 40, FPO AE 09498-4040, Tel  (2890) 328-239, Fax 248-482.
|CG:||Barbara J. Stephenson|
|CON/MGT:||Nicholas J. Manring|
|POL/ECO:||John L. Carwile|
|BPAO:||Aric R. Schwan|
Edinburgh, Scotland (CG), 3 Regent Ter. EH7 5BW • PSC 801, Box 40, FPO AE 09498-4040, Tel  (131) 556-8315, Fax 557-6023. Website: www.usembassy.org.uk/scotland/
|CG:||Cathy Hurst, Acting|
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, (EBRD) One Exchange Square, London EC2A 3JN, United Kingdom. Tel  (20) 7388-6503, Fax 7338-6487.
|U.S. EXEC DIR:||Mark Sullivan|
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 24, 2003
The United Kingdom does not have a written constitution. The equivalent body of law is based on statute, common law, and "traditional rights." Changes may come about formally through new acts of Parliament, informally through the acceptance of new practices and usage, or by judicial precedents. Although Parliament has the theoretical power to make or repeal any law, in actual practice the weight of 700 years of tradition restrains arbitrary actions.
Executive government rests nominally with the Monarch but actually is exercised by a committee of ministers (cabinet) traditionally selected from among the members of the House of Commons and, to a lesser extent, the House of Lords. The prime minister is normally the leader of the largest party in the Commons, and the government is dependent on its support.
Parliament represents the entire country and can legislate for the whole or for any constituent part or combination of parts. The maximum parliamentary term is 5 years, but the prime minister may ask the Monarch to dissolve Parliament and call a general election at any time. The focus of legislative power is the 659-member House of Commons, which has sole jurisdiction over finance. The House of Lords, although shorn of most of its powers, can still review, amend, or delay temporarily any bills except those relating to the budget. The House of Lords has more time than the House of Commons to pursue one of its more important functions—debating public issues. In 1999, the government removed the automatic right of hereditary peers to hold seats in the House of Lords. The current house consists of appointed life peers who hold their seats for life and 92 hereditary peers who will hold their seats only until final reforms have been agreed upon and implemented. The judiciary is independent of the legislative and executive branches but cannot review the constitutionality of legislation.
The separate identities of each of the United Kingdom's constituent parts also is reflected in their respective governmental structures. Up until the recent devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, a cabinet minister (the Secretary of State for Wales) handled Welsh affairs at the national level with the advice of a broadly representative council for Wales. Scotland maintains, as it did before union with England, different systems of law (Roman-French), education, local government, judiciary, and national church (the Church of Scotland instead of the Church of England). In addition, separate departments grouped under a Secretary of State for Scotland, who also is a Cabinet member, handled most domestic matters. In late 1997, however, following approval of referenda by Scottish and Welsh voters (though only narrowly in Wales), the British Government introduced legislation to establish a Scottish Parliament and a Welsh Assembly. The first elections for the two bodies were held May 6, 1999. The Welsh Assembly opened on May 26, and the Scottish Parliament opened on July 1, 1999. The devolved legislatures have largely taken over most of the functions previously performed by the Scottish and Welsh offices.
Northern Ireland had its own Parliament and prime minister from 1921 to 1973, when the British Government imposed direct rule in order to deal with the deteriorating political and security situation. From 1973, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, based in London, was responsible for the region, including efforts to resolve the issues that lay behind the "the troubles."
By the mid-1990s, gestures toward peace encouraged by successive British governments and by President Clinton began to open the door for restored local government in Northern Ireland. An IRA cease-fire and nearly 2 years of multiparty negotiations, led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, resulted in the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998, which was subsequently approved by majorities in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Key elements of the agreement include devolved government, a commitment of the parties to work toward "total disarmament of all paramilitary organizations," police reform, and enhanced mechanisms to guarantee human rights and equal opportunity. The Good Friday Agreement also called for formal cooperation between the Northern Ireland institutions and the Government of the Republic of Ireland, and it established the British-Irish Council, which includes representatives of the British and Irish Governments as well as the devolved Governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Devolved government was reestablished in Northern Ireland in December 1999.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a 108-member elected Assembly, overseen by a 12-minister Executive Committee (cabinet) in which unionists and nationalists share leadership responsibility. Northern Ireland elects 18 representatives to the Westminster Parliament in London. However, the two Sinn Fein MPs, who won seats in the last election, have refused to claim their seats. The Good Friday Agreement also called for formal cooperation between the Northern Ireland institutions and the Government of the Republic of Ireland, and it established the British-Irish Council, which includes representatives of the British and Irish Governments as well as the devolved Governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Progress has been made on each of the key elements of the Good Friday Agreement. Most notably, a new police force has been instituted; the IRA has undertaken two acts of decommissioning of its weapons, and some measures to normalize the security situation in Northern Ireland have been taken. Disagreements over the implementation of elements of the agreement and allegations about the IRA's continued engagement in paramilitary activity, however, continue to trouble the peace process. In October 2002, Northern Ireland's devolved institutions were suspended amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at Stormont, the seat of Northern Ireland's government. Assembly elections scheduled for May 2003 were postponed. The British Government is working closely with the Irish Government and Northern Ireland political parties to create the conditions that would allow elections and the restoration of devolved government to take place.
The United States remains firmly committed to the peace process in Northern Ireland and to the Good Friday Agreement, which it views as the best means to ensure lasting peace. The United States has condemned all acts of terrorism and violence, perpetrated by any group.
The United States also is committed to Northern Ireland's economic development and to date has given or pledged contributions of more than $300 million to the International Fund for Ireland. The fund provides grants and loans to businesses to improve the economy, redress inequalities of employment opportunity, and improve cross-border business and community ties.
Principal Government Officials
Last Updated: 10/6/03
Queen: Elizabeth II,
Prime Minister & First Lord of the Treasury: Blair, Tony
Dep Prime Min.: Prescott, John
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Brown, Gordon
Sec. of State for Culture, Media, & Sport: Jowell, Tessa
Sec. of State for Defense: Hoon, Geoffrey
Sec. of State for Education & Skills: Clarke, Charles
Sec. of State for the Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs: Beckett, Margaret
Sec. of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs: Straw, Jack
Sec. of State for Health: Reid, John
Sec. of State for the Home Office: Blunkett, David
Sec. of State for International Development: Benn, Hilary
Sec. of State for Northern Ireland: Murphy, Paul
Sec. of State for Scotland: Darling, Alistair
Sec. of State for Trade & Industry: Hewitt, Patricia
Sec. of State for Transport: Darling, Alistair
Sec. of State for Wales: Hain, Peter
Sec. of State for Work & Pensions: Smith, Andrew
Min. Without Portfolio & Chairman of the Labor Party: McCartney, Ian
Leader of the House of Lords: Amos, Baroness
President of Council & Leader of the House of Commons: Hain, Peter
Lord Chancellor: Falconer, Lord
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: Boateng, Paul
Chief Whip & Parliamentary Sec. to the Treasury: Armstrong, Hillary
Governor, Bank of England: King, Mervyn
Ambassador to the US: Manning, David, Sir
Permanent Representative to the UN, New York: Jones Parry, Emyr, Sir
The United Kingdom maintains an embassy in the United States at 3100 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-588-6500; fax 202-588-7870).
Tony Blair became the first Labour Prime Minister ever to win a full consecutive second term when he was reelected on June 7, 2001. To date, Labour has a 166-seat majority in the House of Commons. At the 2003 Labour Party conference, Prime Minister Blair announced that he intends to seek a third term. The Conservative (Tory) Party and Liberal-Democrats (LibDems) form the major opposition parties. The main British parties support a strong transatlantic link but have become increasingly absorbed by European issues as Britain's economic and political ties to the continent grow in the post-Cold War world. Prime Minister Blair has promised that the United Kingdom will play a leading role in Europe even as it maintains its strong bilateral relationship with the United States. Britain's relationship with Europe, in particular its potential participation in the single European currency, the euro, is a subject of considerable political discussion in the United Kingdom. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown has stipulated that a public referendum on adopting the euro will occur only after five economic tests are met. Most expect that a referendum will not take place prior to the next general election.
Consular Information Sheet
February 13, 2003
Country Description: The United Kingdom is a highly developed constitutional monarchy comprising England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory. Tourist facilities are widely available.
Entry Requirements: A passport is required. Tourists are not obliged to obtain a visa for stays of up to six months in the United Kingdom or to enter Gibraltar. Those wishing to remain longer than one month in Gibraltar should regularize their stay with Gibraltar immigration authorities.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parent(s) or legal guardian if not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Further information on entry requirements may be obtained from the British Embassy at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: (202) 588-7800. Inquiries may also be directed to British consulates in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The website of the British Embassy in the United States is http://www.britainusa.com/embassy.
Dual Nationality: U.S. citizens who are also citizens of the United Kingdom or any other nation are reminded that U.S. law requires they enter and depart the United States documented as U.S. citizens. They are not entitled to U.S. visas or to travel to the U.S. on the visa waiver program. U.S. citizens who attempt to travel to the U.S. from the United Kingdom on foreign passports risk being denied boarding pending acquisition of a valid U.S. passport. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our dual nationality flyer.
Safety and Security: The United Kingdom is stable and modern but shares with the rest of the world an increased threat of terrorist incidents of international origin, as well as violence related to the political situation in Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kingdom.) Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution. In recent months, several arrests have been made in Great Britain in connection with various possible terrorist plots. The British Home Secretary has urged its citizens to be alert and vigilant by, for example, keeping an eye out for suspect packages or people acting suspiciously at subway and train stations and airports and reporting anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities by contacting the free confidential anti-terrorist telephone hotline on 0800 789 321. Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet website at http://travel.state.gov where any current Worldwide Cautions or Public Announcements can be found.
From time to time during periods of heightened threat of terrorism, the U.K. government deems it necessary to raise levels of security activity. Heightened activity may include the use of military personnel in support of the police and law enforcement officers. The use of troops, who remain at all times under the control of the police, is part of long-standing contingency plans. Military personnel and equipment may be deployed at airports and other transportation links, or other public locations. For more information about U.K. public safety initiatives, consult the U.K. Civil Contingencies Secretariat website at http://www.ukresilience.gov.uk
Political demonstrations are well policed and, except at times in Northern Ireland, generally orderly. Although the political situation in Northern Ireland has dramatically improved since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, incidents of terrorist violence have, nevertheless, occurred in the past few years. Early in 2001, two explosive devices were detonated in London suburbs, injuring eight people and damaging buildings. Within Northern Ireland, flash-points for sectarian confrontations still exist, but they are generally removed from areas where tourists congregate. Sporadic incidents of street violence often erupt during the summer marching season (April to August), with tensions heightened during the month of July, especially around the July 12th public holiday. As a result, American citizens traveling in Northern Ireland have experienced delays and disruption.
Crime: The United Kingdom and Gibraltar benefit from generally low crime rates; however crime, including violent crime, has increased over the last few years. Incidents of pickpocketing, mugging, "snatch and grab" theft of mobile phones, watches and jewelry and theft of unattended bags, especially at airports and from cars parked at restaurants, hotels and resorts.
Pickpockets target tourists, especially at historic sites, restaurants, on buses, trains and the London Underground (subway). Thieves often target unattended cars parked at tourist sites and roadside restaurants, looking for laptop computers and hand-held electronic equipment. In London, travelers should use only licensed "black taxi cabs" or car services recommended by their hotel or tour operator. Unlicensed taxis or private cars posing as taxis that may offer low fares, but are often uninsured and may have unlicensed drivers. In some instances, travelers have been robbed while using these cars.
Due to the circumstances described above, visitors should take steps to ensure the safety of their U.S. passports. Visitors in the England, Scotland, Wales and Gibraltar are not expected to produce identity documents for police authorities and thus may secure their passports in hotel safes or residences. In Northern Ireland, however, passports or other photographic I.D. should be carried at all times. The need to carry a passport to cash travelers' checks is also minimized by an abundance of ATMs able to access systems widely used in the U.S. and offering more favorable rates of exchange. Note: Common sense personal security measures utilized in the U.S when using ATMs should also be followed in the U.K.
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
U.S. citizens can refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/index.html, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.
Medical Facilities: While medical services are widely available, free care under the National Health System is allowed only to U.K. residents and certain EU nationals. Tourists and short-term visitors can expect charges roughly comparable to those assessed in the United States.
Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.
When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.
Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.
Other Health Information: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's website at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the United Kingdom is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Safety of Public Transportation: Excellent
Urban Road Condition/Maintenance: Excellent
Rural Road Condition/Maintenance: Excellent
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Excellent
U.K. penalties for drunk driving are stiff and often result in prison sentences. In contrast to the United States and continental Europe where traffic moves on the right hand side of the road, traffic moves on the left in the U.K. Visitors uncomfortable with or intimidated by the prospect of driving on the left-hand side of the road may wish to avail themselves of extensive bus, rail and air transport networks that are comparatively in expensive and very extensive. Roads in the United Kingdom are generally good, but are narrow and often congested in urban areas. If you plan to drive while in the U.K., you may wish to obtain a copy of the Highway Code, available in the United Kingdom. The Automobile Association (AA) of the U.K. provides information and updates on travel and traffic-related issues on its website at http://www.the-stationaryoffice.co.uk. If you intend to rent a car in the U.K., check that you are adequately insured. U.S. auto insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. and you may wish to purchase supplemental insurance, which is generally available from most major rental agents.
Public transport in the United Kingdom is excellent and extensive. However, poor track conditions may have contributed to train derailments resulting in some fatalities. Repairs are underway and the overall safety record is excellent.
Many U.S. citizens are injured every year in pedestrian accidents in the United Kingdom, forgetting that traffic moves in the opposite direction than in the United States. Care should be taken when crossing streets.
Driving in Gibraltar is on the righthand side of the road, as in the U.S. and Continental Europe. Persons traveling overland between Gibraltar and Spain may experience long delays in clearing Spanish border controls.
For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning United Kingdom driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, refer to the United Kingdom's Department of Environment and Transport website at http://www.detr.gov.uk; the Driving Standards Agency website at http://www.dsa.gov.uk, or consult the U.S. Embassy in London's website at http://www.usembassy.org.uk.
The phone number for police/fire/ambulance emergency services - the equivalent of "911" in the U.S. - is 999 in the United Kingdom and 12 in Gibraltar.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 –- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of the United Kingdom's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.
Customs Regulations: British customs authorities may strictly enforce regulations regarding the import or export of certain items, including material deemed likely to incite racial hatred, firearms and personal defense items such as mace or knives. It is advisable to contact the British Embassy in Washington or one of the United Kingdom's consulates in the U.S. for specific information regarding customs requirements. Customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes. ATA Carnet Headquarters, located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10036, issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States. For additional information call 212-354-4480, send an e-mail to ata [email protected], or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
Criminal Penalties: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating British law, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in the United Kingdom are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. Many pocketknives and other blades, and mace or pepper spray canisters, although legal in the U.S., are illegal in the U.K. and may be confiscated.
Air travelers to and from the United Kingdom should be aware that penalties against alcohol-related and other in-flight crimes ("air rage") are stiff and are being enforced with prison sentences.
Children's Issues: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, please refer to our Internet site at http://travel.state.gov/children's_ issues.html or telephone 1-888-407-4747.
Registration/Embassy and Consulate Locations: Americans living in or visiting the United Kingdom are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in London or at the U.S. Consulates General in Edinburgh or Belfast and obtain updated information on travel and security within the U.K.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 1AE; Telephone: in country 020-7499-9000, from the U.S. 011-44-20-7499-9000 (24 hours); Consular Section fax: in country 020-7495-5012; from the U.S. 011-44-20-7495-5012. The embassy website is http://www.usembassy. org.uk.
The U.S. Consulate General in Edinburgh, Scotland is located at 3 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5BW; Telephone: in country 0131-556-8315, from the U.S. 011-44-131-556-8315. After hours: in country 01224-857097, from the U.S. 011-44-1224-857097. Fax: in country 0131-557-6023; from the U.S. 011-44-131-557-6023. The website is http://www.usembassy.org.uk/scotland.
The U.S. Consulate General in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is located at Queen's House, 14 Queen Street, Belfast BT1 6EQ; Telephone: in country 028-9032-8239; from the U.S. 011-44-28-9032-8239. After hours: in country 028-90-661-629; from the U.S. 011-44-28-90-661-629. Fax: in country 028-9024-8482; from the U.S. 011-44-28-9024-8482. The website is http://www.usembassy.org.uk.
There is no U.S. consular representation in Gibraltar. Citizen services questions should be directed to the U.S. Embassy in London. Passport questions can be directed to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid, located at Serrano 75/Madrid, Spain; telephone (34)(91) 587-2200, and fax (34)(91) 587-2303. The website address is http://www.embusa.es.
International Parental Child Abduction
The information below has been edited from the report of the State Department Bureau of Consular Affairs, American Citizen Services. For more information, please read the Guarding Against International Child Abduction section of this book and review current reports online at travel.state.gov
General Information: The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction came into force between the United States and the United Kingdom on July 1, 1988. Therefore, Hague Convention provisions for return would apply to children abducted or retained after July 1, 1988. Parents and legal guardians of children taken to the United Kingdom prior to July 1, 1988, may still submit applications for access to the child under the Hague Convention in some cases.
The United Kingdom has three Central Authorities: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.
The Central Authority for England and Wales
The Child Abduction Unit
Official Solicitors Department
81 Chancery Lane - Fourth floor
London WC2A 1DD England United Kingdom
Telephone: 011  (171) 911-7047 or 7094
Fax: 011  (171) 911-7248
The Central Authority for Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Court Service
9-15 Belford Street
Belfast BT2 7LT Northern Ireland
Telephone: 011  (232) 328-594
Fax: 011  (232) 439-110
The Central Authority for Scotland
Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland
Scottish Courts Administration
23 Lauriston Street
Edinburgh EH3 9DQ Scotland United Kingdom
Telephone: 011  (131) 229-9200
Fax: 011  (131) 221-6894
"United Kingdom." Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2005. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 21, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/culture-magazines/united-kingdom
"United Kingdom." Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2005. . Retrieved November 21, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/culture-magazines/united-kingdom
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