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The UK – United Kingdom – consists of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain comprises England, Scotland and Wales.

• England is the largest country of the UK, with some 50 million people. It is mainly a lowland country, with some upland areas in the north and west. Major cities include London (about 7.1 million people), Birmingham (about 1.0 million) and Manchester (about 430,000). The economy is increasingly service-based, and London is one of the world’s leading centres for banking, insurance and other financial services. High-tech industries have replaced many of the more traditional ones.

• In Scotland, a mere 5.1 million people live in an area not much smaller than England. The country boasts vast open spaces and is one of the last areas of unspoiled natural beauty in Europe, featuring mountains, lochs (lakes) and glens (valleys). Global enterprises including microelectronics and biotechnology, as well as fishing and forestry, drive Scotland’s economy. The largest cities are Glasgow (about 578,000 people) and Edinburgh (about 450,000).

• Wales is home to three million people, and its geography is characterised by coastline, mountains and lakes. Cardiff is the largest city, with over 300,000 people. Key growth industries in Wales include electronics, auto components, food processing, health care, and financial and professional services. More Japanese companies have set up shop in Wales than anywhere else in Europe.

• About 1.7 million people live in Northern Ireland, and of these about 280,000 live in Belfast, the largest city. Residents of Northern Ireland enjoy beautiful countryside and a lower cost of living than those on the mainland. Many new hotels are springing up to cater for increasing numbers of tourists and business travellers.

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