The United Kingdom (The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is a unitary state consisting of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system, in which the ultimate legislative power is held by the centralized Parliament of the United Kingdom. The monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, serves as head of state, but her function in the legislative process is merely ceremonial. Next to the central government of the UK, three of the four member countries, namely Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, have their own devolved national administrations. The three national administrations all consist of an executive body and a legislative institution with different levels of authority. Power is delegated to the devolved administrations by the central parliament and can theoretically be withdrawn or limited at any time.
As of today, the United Kingdom has a total population of around 66 million people. It is a permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council and a major member of the European Union. The country’s currency is the British Pound Sterling as it opted not to become a member of the euro area. Currently, the UK is even considering leaving the EU for good; the so-called "Brexit" referendum took place at the end of June 2016.
After 16 years of steady GDP growth , the UK’s economy was hit by the global financial crisis in 2008. After two years of contraction, it returned to its growth path in 2010. The crisis resulted in a two percent jump in the UK's unemployment rate which is predicted to decrease to around the 4.4 percentage, but has yet to return to its pre-recession level.
Since 1945, the United Kingdom has been subject to substantial immigration from areas that were formally tied to the British Empire. In 2010, the total number of immigrants in the UK came to seven million people. With the current situation in Syria, this number is expected to increase. The degree of ethnic diversity heavily varies across different areas of the United Kingdom and is especially high in metropolitan areas.
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