How Many Countries Make Up The UK? It’s been said before that the United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
I’m in good company with this simplification, other more notable YouTubers, and even number 10’s own website has referred to the UK as being made up of these four countries.
So let’s take a look at this, and ask ourselves what are the countries of the UK.
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are Administrative Divisions of the United Kingdom and each has its own parliament and so can be referred to as “constituent countries”.
The term “Country” can be confusing, as can refer to sovereign nations, such as the United Kingdom itself; but it has also shown up in various laws through Britain’s history.
The first union is between England and Wales, with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542.
Wales was annexed to England and becomes a single entity commonly known for centuries simply as the Kingdom of England, but later renamed as the Kingdom of England and Wales.
During this period Wales was described as “country”, “principality”, and “dominion” in common language.
But we’re looking for something official so our next law is the Acts of Union 1707.
When Scotland joined England to form a new single state, and this document defines England and Scotland as a “part” of a United Kingdom of Great Britain.
We’re still no closer to an official bonified country definition.
So next up is The Acts of Union 1800 – these Acts united this Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland which had been previously in personal union with the British crown.
Here we find the official term of “country” used to describe Great Britain and Ireland.
By the way, in this document England and Scotland are again referred to as “Part” of Great Britain.
but I digress So we have an answer: 2 countries: Great Britain and Ireland.
However Britain did not retain the entire island of Ireland, So perhaps we should look further.
The Government of Ireland Act 1920 described Great Britain, Southern Ireland, and Northern Ireland as “countries”, at least in provisions relating to taxation, so this gives a good historical argument for referring to Northern Ireland as a Country as I did.
Except, this Act was repealed with The Northern Ireland Act 1998, and here we find no term to describe Northern Ireland with at all, and find ourselves back at square one.
So, let’s look somewhere else.
In 2007, United Nations held a conference to try and standardize regional names, imaginatively named the Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names.
The UK made her submission and defined the UK as being made up of two countries (England and Scotland), one principality (Wales), and one province (Northern Ireland).
So there we are back at two countries!
But wait, Wales isn’t defined as a country here, my YouTube comments didn’t mention that!
My commenters are basing their criticisms on the definitions given by the International Organization for Standardization, which calls England, Scotland, and Wales “Countries” while Northern Ireland is declared a “Province”.
And it doesn’t quite make sense to call Wales a Principality, since the historic Principality of Wales encompassed only the northern part of the region.
However, referring to Northern Ireland as a province, in reference to the province of Ulster is also problematic on similar logic.
Northern Ireland is made up of six of the nine counties that constitute Ulster, the remaining three being part of (the Republic of) Ireland.
The nomenclature here is quite the complicated web, so what are we to take from this?
The choice of term used can tell more of the political preferences of the author than reality.
Nationalists might prefer the province to be reserved for the traditional province of Ulster and call it “the six counties”, while Unionists might want to go further and simply call it Ulster.
The result of this controversy is that there isn’t any particularly good official title to give the area.
Personally I still prefer country, keeping, at least in name,
all four regions of the United Kingdom on an equal level and reflecting the four devolved parliaments;but tell me what you think in the comments below!
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