Year of EU entry: 1973 / Capital city: London / Population: 60.4 million
The United Kingdom consists of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The country is a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. The two chambers of parliament are the lower house, the House of Commons, and the upper house, the House of Lords, which includes life peers, hereditary peers and bishops. There is a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh with wide-ranging local powers and a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff with more limited authority for Welsh affairs.
The economy, one of the largest in the EU, is increasingly service-based although it maintains industrial capacity in high-tech and other sectors. Home to the industrial revolution, the United Kingdom has produced many great scientists and engineers including Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. English literature has produced an endless stream of poets, dramatists, essayists and novelists from Geoffrey Chaucer to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, to a plethora of modern writers.