The Government and Politics of the European Union

Seventh edition

by Neill Nugent

The United Kingdom

Population 61.2 m
Capital London
Surface area 241,300 km2
Official Languages 241,300 km2
Gross domestic product (GDP) (in euros) 241,300 km2
GDP as a % of EU-27, based on 2009 data 16.5
GDP per capita by purchasing power standards (indexed to EU average of 100) 117.7
Currency Pound sterling
Human development index (HDI), an index based on life expectancy, education and GDP (max. 1) 0.946
World rank 16
Key economic sectors (% of GDP in 2003) Services (72.4); industry (26.6); agriculture (1.0)
Leading companies BP (oil); Vodafone (mobile telephones)
Unemployment in February 2010 7.7% (source:
Main religious denominations (numbers in millions) Anglican (10.9); Roman Catholic (4.1); Presbyterian (1.65); Muslim (0.89)
Political system The party best represented in the lower chamber of Parliament (the House of Commons) after a general election normally forms a government, which is accountable to Parliament. General elections to the House of Commons must be held after at most 5 years. Certain powers were devolved to a Scottish Parliament and assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland in 1998.
Electoral system Simple majority (first-past-the-post) system for Westminster elections; additional member system for Scotland and Wales; Single Transferable Vote for Northern Ireland
Current (March 2010) leaders Head of State: Queen Elizabeth II (b. 1926), since 1952
Prime minister: Gordon Brown (b. 1951), since June 2007
Previous leaders: Prime ministers: Tony Blair (1997-2007); John Major (1990-97); Margaret Thatcher (1979-90)
Joined the EU/EC 1973
Commissioner from country in Barroso II College of Commissioners, and portfolio Catherine Ashton (High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the Commission)
Number of MEPs 73/754
Turnout in 2009 EP elections (%) 34.3
Member of eurozone No

Except where a specific reference is inserted, the sources for this profile are either Neill Nugent’s book itself, or Barry Turner (ed.), The Statesman’s Yearbook Online, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. If your library subscribes, you can gain access at