Learn more about Constituent country
Constituent countries is a phrase sometimes used, usually by official institutions, in contexts in which a number of countries make up a larger entity or grouping; thus the OECD has used the phrase in reference to the former Yugoslavia (example here) and European institutions such as the Council of Europe frequently use it in reference to the European Union (example here). It is not a term of art and has no defined legal meaning; 'constituent' is simply an adjective, and the phrase has no clear meaning outside a context from which the entity or grouping of which the countries in question are constituents or components can be understood.
 United Kingdom
The constituent countries of the United Kingdom are:
- Northern Ireland
- Wales<ref name="countries within a country">countries within a country.</ref>
These four constituent countries of the United Kingdom are sometimes also referred to as Home Nations.
The word country does not necessarily connote political independence (thus Basque country), so that it may, according to context, be used to refer either to the UK or one of its constituents. Thus, for example, the website of the British Prime Minister refers to "Countries within a country", stating "The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland". This article discusses the use of the phrase 'constituent countries' within that context, but it should be remembered that the phrase necessarily takes its meaning from its surrounding context which may be different. <ref name="term">Term used by British and Irish Governments and British media.</ref>
Although the term constituent countries is sometimes used by official government bodies in the UK, such as the Office for National Statistics, it is rarely used otherwise. Far more frequently, they are simply referred to as countries; thus the UK Government's 2001 Census asked residents of the UK their "country of birth" with tick box options of: England; Wales; Scotland; Northern Ireland; Republic of Ireland and Elsewhere; and the Office for National Statistics states authoritatively in its Glossary that "In the context of the UK, each of the 4 main subdivisions (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is referred to as a country".
The British Embassy in the United States uses the word countries on its website, rather than constituent countries: "The United Kingdom is made up of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
 Distinctive status
All four have always had and continue to have distinctive variations in legislative and administrative status and England and Scotland were originally independent states. All four are still generally regarded as possessing distinct nationalities (an attribute of civil society), although they have no distinct citizenships (an attribute of the state). To varying degrees, their inhabitants may view themselves, for example, as English/Northern Irish/Scottish/Welsh or as British by nationality, or frequently indeed as both.
Northern Ireland was the first part of the UK to have a devolved government, under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, until the Parliament of Northern Ireland was suspended in 1972. Subsequent attempts at reinstating a form of devolved government in Northern Ireland have stalled, and the area is currently governed directly by the UK government. The complex history of Northern Ireland has lead to differing views as to its status, but almost nobody in day-to-day speech, and even in more semi-official or official usage, refers to it as a "country". The term "Province" is used more often by unionist and British commentators, but not by nationalists, who use the term when referring to all of the nine counties in the province of Ulster, rather than just the six counties which are still part of the United Kingdom.
Scotland and Wales adopted devolved governments in the 1990s, but have long been described as countries in their own right. Although England lacks a devolved government of its own, and no real legal existence, except as part of "England and Wales", it is almost universally thought of as a country and a nation.
All four constituent countries of the United Kingdom have political parties campaigning for further self-government or independence. In the case of Northern Ireland, both the desire for union with the Republic of Ireland and a small movement for independence from both the Republic and the UK have existed. There is a movement for self-government in Cornwall which has campaigned for Cornwall to be recognised as a constituent country of the UK, rather than its current status as an English county.
 Alternative terms
The phrase 'component countries' is also occasionally used. The overlapping, but not identical term Home Nations is also occasionally used by government bodies, but is almost exclusively used in sporting contexts, particularly rugby union; this term more frequently means England, Scotland, Ireland (as a whole), and Wales.
Sometimes the four countries are described as 'constituent parts'<ref name="parts-us">"Constituent parts" used by US government.</ref><ref name="parts-uk">"Constituent parts" used by British government.</ref>
All citizens of the United Kingdom, from whichever constituent country, are British citizens (although many people in Northern Ireland are entitled to, and often do, hold Irish citizenship) and are also citizens of the European Union.
 See also
- Home Nations
- British Isles (terminology)
- British nationality law
- British subject
- Northern Ireland Assembly
- Scottish Parliament
- National Assembly for Wales
- Devolved English Parliament
- Crown dependency
- Political union