Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Foreign relations of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is a major player in international politics, with interests throughout the world. The former British Empire, notably through its successor, the Commonwealth of Nations, links the UK with many of the world's nations in one way or another. The UK has also exported its parliamentary style government, legal and financial systems, and language throughout the world.
Summary of UK relations specific countries and regions
- United States of America
- The United Kingdom is the closest military and political ally of the United States. The two countries share military research and intelligence facilities. The UK has purchased military technology from the USA such as Tomahawk cruise missiles and Trident nuclear missiles. The USA also maintains a large number of military personnel in the UK. Traditionally, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the President of the United States have been close allies. See Special relationship.
- European Union
- The UK has been a member of the EU since 1973. Although the UK is not a euro member, it still plays a major part in the day to day workings of the EU. The UK has clashed with individual countries of the European Union, particularly with France, most recently over the US-led military invasion of Iraq. The UK faces a critical juncture in its relations with the EU over the ratification of the new treaty establishing a constitution for Europe.
- Commonwealth of Nations
- The UK has good relationships with the Commonwealth countries because the UK heads the Commonwealth and the Queen is the head of state in most of the Commonwealth countries. Over time many countries have been suspended from the Commonwealth from various reasons. Currently Zimbabwe is suspended. However, relationships with countries such as Australia have become strained due to their desire to become republics.
- Republic of Ireland
- The UK works closely with the Irish government in areas concerning the peace process in Northern Ireland. Under the Ireland Act 1949 Irish citizens are treated as though they are Commonwealth citizens and not aliens for the purposes of law.
- The UK maintains two sovereign area military bases on the island. The UK is also a signatory to a treaty with Greece and Turkey concerning the independence of Cyprus.
- The UK was once the colonial power in many African countries. Nowadays the UK as lead member of the Commonwealth of Nations seeks to influence Africa through its foreign policies. Current UK disputes are with Zimbabwe over its human rights violations. Tony Blair has set up the Africa Commission and urged countries to end Third World Debt.
Major international disputes between the UK and foreign countries since 1945
- 1949 – dispute with USSR over access to West Berlin
- 1950 – Korean War - war with China/North Korea
- 1957 – Suez Crisis - war with Egypt
- 1958 – First Cod War with Iceland
- 1972-1973 – Second Cod War with Iceland
- 1975-1976 – Third Cod War with Iceland
- 1982 – war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands
- 1983 – dispute with the United States over its invasion of the Commonwealth island of Grenada, of which Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is Queen
- 1984 – dispute with Libya after a policewoman is shot dead in London by a gunman from within the Libyan embassy.
- 1988 – further dispute with Libya over the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over the Scottish town of Lockerbie
- 1990 – Gulf War with Iraq
- 1994 – dispute with the European Union over the ban on exports of British meat products, UK withdraws co-operation with the organisation.
- 2001 – invasion of Afghanistan
- 2002 – dispute with Chile over the arrest of General Pinochet
- 2003 – invasion of Iraq, including disputes with Russia, France, Canada, and Germany
- Northern Ireland issue with the Republic of Ireland (historic peace agreement signed 10 April 1998).
- Gibraltar issue with Spain.
- Argentina claims the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.
- Both the Seychelles and Mauritius claim the Chagos Archipelago in the British Indian Ocean Territory, including the island of Diego Garcia used as a US military base since the 1950s when the inhabitants were forcibly removed.
- Denmark, Iceland, and the Republic of Ireland all claim the island Rockall and its surrounding patch of continental shelf (though Ireland and the UK have signed a boundary agreement over the Rockall area).
- There is a territorial claim in Antarctica, the British Antarctic Territory, which overlaps with those of Chile and Argentina, though this is moot due to the Antarctic Treaty.
The United Kingdom serves as a gateway country for much of the Latin American cocaine entering the European market, as a producer and major consumer of synthetic drugs, and synthetic pre-cursor chemicals, a major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin, and as a significant money-laundering centre.
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