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The place of the UK in the wider world

The UK’s role in the World

Despite its small geographic area the UK still plays a major role around the world. It does so because of its history, its links with other nations, its cultural excellence and through trade.

Language and culture

The UK is one of the most globalised countries in terms of its culture. According to the Daily Mail “Britain is the world's only global power - yet it is not the army or economy, but the cultural influence of singers like Adele and literary giants like Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes which puts us head and shoulders above our neighbours.”

English is the language of many countries, and the main language used for businesses around the world. Our cultural activities have become global brands, and British football clubs have fans everywhere

Many British groups, and actors, and TV and radio programmes, are popular around the world.  The map below shows countries where English is the official language .English as main language



The UK depends heavily on the trade with other countries. We currently have a trade deficit, as we import (buy in) a higher value of goods tan we export (sell out). The figures from 2014 show this;

  Imports Exports Balance of trade
European Union £218.5 billion £146.8 billion -£71.7 billion
Out of European Union £197 billion £163.8 billion -£33.2 billion
Totals £415.5 billion £310.6 billion -£104.9 billion

• The UK trades all over the world, but mainly with other EU countries.
• Outside the EU, its main trading partner is the USA.  Inside the EU, it’s Germany.
• Many British companies are transnational corporations (TNCs) with branches all over the world, e.g. Shell, Vodaphone, and Barclays Bank.
• Many TNCs from other countries have set up branches in the UK, like Sony, Coca-Cola, Nike, and MacDonalds.

UK balance of trade

Electronic Communication

The UK has an extensive electronic communication network not only across the whole country but linking it to other parts of the word.  The government wants 90% of the country to have superfast broadband by 2016 and link remote areas of the country via satellite technology. 

Globally, the UK is linked up via a vast cable network under the sea.  We have cables linking us to North and South America, Europe, Africa.  Other cables then link us to other parts of the world.

Submarine cable


The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Nations was established in the 1949 by Queen Elizabeth II (the head of the commonwealth) as countries started to declare their independence from the British Empire.
It is an intergovernmental organisation of 53 countries, that were mainly territories of the British Empire.
In the London Declaration of 1949 all member states of the Commonwealth were declared free and equal.
The members of the commonwealth have no legal obligation to each other.  They are linked together by history, culture, language and 3 shared values: democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Commonwealth facts:

• It covers more than 29,958,050 km2 (11,566,870 sq. mi), almost a quarter of the world land area
• It spans all six inhabited continents.
• It has an estimated population of 2.328 billion
• In 2014 produced a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $10.45 trillion

Annual meetings – the heads. of state of the commonwealth countries meet every year to discuss common goals and interests.  The UK benefits from these links both politically and economically

The European Union

The European Union is a group of 27 countries that have common goals and close ties to one another.  The EU started as a trading union between France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands with the added incentive of sustaining peace in Post-World War 2 Europe.  Over tie the Union has grown, adding a common market of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957.  The UK joined in 1973 and the EU has slowly expanded ever since.  The UK has major connection with, and UK citizens lives are affected by the EU because;

• It has policies in place to control food production under the Common Agricultural Policy
• It can determine national law through the European Court of Justice
• It controls and allows free movement of EU citizens throughout member countries
• It promotes easier trade between EU countries so boosting economies
• It can bail out countries in financial trouble through the European Central Bank
•  It makes big decisions in a democratic way through its elected MEPs at its parliaments in Brussels and Strasbourg
•  It passes laws protecting people’s rights and the environment
• It tries to even out differences in development between richer member states and poorer member states.

UK political maps

Whilst the UK pays a lot of money into the EU for its various activities, money comes back to the UK via trade and various EU policies.  Policies include the EU Investment bank which invests in companies such as Jaguar, structural funds which are monies going to the poorest regions of the UK and the EU region Development Fund.


The UK is a major transport hub in the world and many of the world’s transport systems are connected to the UK.  The UK has;

1. Many international airports connecting the UK to cities on every continent. That includes a major “hub” airport at Heathrow that allows people to travel around the globe and stop off in London.
2. Huge freight ports around the country, including at Teesport and Thames port which can provide access for huge container ships for import and export
3. Rail links to the continent via Eurostar and Eurotunnel.  This connection provides access to major northern European cities such as Paris and Brussels and then on into the wider European rail network

NEXT UNIT -  GCSE - Challenge of Natural Hazards   GCSE - Physical landscapes in the UK   GCSE - The Living World    GCSE - Urban Issues and Challenges    GCSE - Challenge of Resource Management  




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