The United Kingdom

The official name of this country is The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

 It is situated on the British Isles, which lie off the north-west coast of Europe. It consists of two large islands (Great Britain and Ireland) and about 5,000 smaller ones (e.g. the Isle of Wight, the Isle of Scilly, the Isle of Man, Anglesey, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Shetlands and the Channel Islands). Its neighbours are Ireland to west and France to south-east. It covers the area of 244,805 square kilometres. We can get there either by air or by ferry (or by faster hovercraft) from Calais to Dover across the Strait of Dover, which is the shortest way. We can get there also through the tunnel under the English Channel. In the east is the North Sea, in the west is the Atlantic Ocean, between Ireland and Great Britain is the Irish Sea and between Great Britain and France is the English Channel. The Great Britain includes four countries: England with its capital London, Scotland with Edinburgh, Wales with Cardiff and Northern Ireland with Belfast.

England is mostly rolling land, rising to the Uplands of southern Scotland. In the north of England are the Pennies (the Backbone of England) – they run north-south through the central part of northern England. There are also the Cheviot Hills on the border with Scotland and the Cumbrian Mountains in the Lake District which is very romantic place for holidays. The South is also a holiday resort so there is a very high density. The patron of whole England is St. George. Scotland is historically and culturally separate country from England. It is the land of many special traditions, which cannot be found elsewhere in the world – playing the pipes, quality tweeds, woollen knitwear, wearing kilts etc. It is a large and magnificent lake and mountains area. The biggest lake is Loch Lomond and Loch Ness is famous for its „Loch Ness Monster“. The Grandpians are the highest mountains in Britain (with the highest mountain Ben Nevis – 1,342m). Wales is also hilly land with its mountain range Snowdonia. Because of number of castles it is often called the land of castles. In Northern Ireland (or Ulster) there are some political problems. They want to separate from Great Britain and IRA did some bomb attacks and terrorist actions in London. There are two longest rivers in Great Britain – Severn and Thames.
A lot of people think that the people who lived in Great Britain are English. But only people in England are English, people in Scotland are Scottish, people in Wales are Welsh and people in Northern Ireland are Irish. Population is about 57,000,000 people. The density is one of the highest in the world – 232 people to one square kilometre.
British national flag is sometimes called „Unions Jack“. It symbolises the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland. Each country has its cross in the flag but Welsh’s flag (the dragon) miss. National anthem is „God save the Queen!“

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy. Power is represented by a Monarch and Parliament. A Monarch (a king or a queen) is Head of State but can only reign with a support of Parliament. The role of a sovereign is to represent state and appoint all the Ministers, including the Prime Minister but it is just formal. The present Monarch is the Queen Elizabeth II. She had four descendants – Charles – Prince of Wales, Andrew, Edward and Anne. She had of course a husband – Duke of Edinburgh and a sister – Margaret. The very popular member of the royal family is the Queen Mother (or Queen Mum) who is 97 years old. The heir of the throne is William who is Prince Charles’s and Lady Diana’s son because there were some scandals about Charles.

Parliament has two chambers – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The first one contains more than 1,000 members but only 250 of them take an active part in the work. They consist of hereditary peers, life peers, 24 bishops and 2 archbishops. The hereditary peers inherit their post from generation to generation and they are mostly noblemen. The life peers become peers when they do something important for the state. The House of commons contains 650 elected members and each MP represents a definite part of a county. They are elected at General Election or By – Election, which is decided on a simple majority. It is held every 5 years and everyone over the age of 18 can vote.

Both Parliament and the Queen represent legislative power. New bills are introduced and debated in the House of Commons. If they are approved by the majority of the members the bills go to the House of Lords to be approved and finally to the monarch to be signed. Only then does it become the law.
The British democratic system depends on the two strongest parties – Conservative and Labour. The party, which wins the majority of seats, forms the Government and its leader becomes the Prime Minister. The present Prime Minister is Tony Blair from Labour Party. The second largest party in the election becomes the Opposition and its role is to criticise the Government. The Prime Minister chooses 20 Ministers to form Cabinet. The leader of the Opposition form Shadow Cabinet.
The United Kingdom constitution is unwritten. It is based on agreement, tradition and common law.

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