The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK), since 1922, comprises four constituent countries: England, Scotland, and Wales (which collectively make up Great Britain), as well as Northern Ireland (variously described as a country, province or region). The UK Prime Minister's website has used the phrase "countries within a country" to describe the United Kingdom. Some statistical summaries, such as those for the twelve NUTS 1 regions of the United Kingdom, refer to Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales as "regions". With regard to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales particularly, the descriptive name one uses "can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences".
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Although the United Kingdom is a unitary sovereign country, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution. The United Kingdom Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but not in general matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Senedd. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is conditional on co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland (see North/South Ministerial Council) and the British Government consults with the Government of Ireland to reach agreement on some non-devolved matters for Northern Ireland (see British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference). England, comprising the majority of the population and area of the United Kingdom, remains fully the responsibility of the United Kingdom Parliament centralised in London.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales are not themselves listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However the ISO list of the subdivisions of the United Kingdom, compiled by British Standards and the United Kingdom's Office for National Statistics, uses "country" to describe England, Scotland, and Wales. Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a "province" in the same lists. Each has separate national governing bodies for sports and compete separately in many international sporting competitions, including the Commonwealth Games. Northern Ireland also forms joint All-Island sporting bodies with the Republic of Ireland for some sports, including rugby union.
From 1801, following the Acts of Union, until 1922 the whole island of Ireland was a country within the UK. Ireland was split into two separate jurisdictions in 1921, becoming Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland became the Irish Free State and left the United Kingdom in 1922, left the Commonwealth of Nations in 1949 and is now known as the Republic of Ireland or simply Ireland.