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However, on 23 June 2016, a non-binding referendum on the UK's membership of the EU resulted with 51.9% of UK voters favouring a leave, and now the country's prospective exit from the EU is being negotiated.
The UK is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7 finance ministers, the G7 forum, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The 1707 Acts of Union declared that the kingdoms of England and Scotland were "United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain", though the new state is also referred to in the Acts as the "Kingdom of Great Britain", "United Kingdom of Great Britain" and "United Kingdom".
The term "United Kingdom" is found in informal use during the 18th century and the country was also occasionally referred to as the "United Kingdom of Great Britain" though its full official name, from 1707 to 1800, was merely "Great Britain", without a "long form".
The UK has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946.
It has been a leading member state of the EU and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973.
British influence can be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies.
The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity.
GB and GBR are the standard country codes for the United Kingdom (see ISO 3166-2 and ISO 3166-1 alpha-3) and are consequently used by international organisations to refer to the United Kingdom.
The UK is considered to have a high-income economy and is categorised as very high in the Human Development Index, ranking 16th in the world.
It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
This meant that the united kingdom created in 1707 by the Treaty of Union between England and Scotland encompassed all of Great Britain.
The Kingdom of Ireland then merged with this state in 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.