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The '''United Kingdom of [http://www.visitbritain.com/ Great Britain] and [http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/ Northern Ireland'''] (the ''United Kingdom'' or the ''UK'') is a constitutional monarchy comprising much of the [[Britain and Ireland|British Isles]].
 
The '''United Kingdom of [http://www.visitbritain.com/ Great Britain] and [http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/ Northern Ireland'''] (the ''United Kingdom'' or the ''UK'') is a constitutional monarchy comprising much of the [[Britain and Ireland|British Isles]].
  
This Union is more than 300 years old and comprises four constituent countries: [[England]], [[Scotland]], [[Wales]], and [[Northern Ireland]]. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland and most of the remaining British Isles.  
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This Union is more than 300 years old and comprises four constituent nations: [[England]], [[Scotland]], [[Wales]], and [[Northern Ireland]]. It occupies all of the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern portion of the island of Ireland and most of the remaining British Isles.  
 
The UK is an island nation, but shares a open land border with [[Ireland]]. It neighbours several countries by sea, including [[France]], [[Belgium]], the [[Netherlands]], [[Germany]], [[Portugal]], [[Spain]], [[Denmark]], [[Norway]], [[Sweden]], the [[Faroe Islands]] and [[Iceland]].  
 
The UK is an island nation, but shares a open land border with [[Ireland]]. It neighbours several countries by sea, including [[France]], [[Belgium]], the [[Netherlands]], [[Germany]], [[Portugal]], [[Spain]], [[Denmark]], [[Norway]], [[Sweden]], the [[Faroe Islands]] and [[Iceland]].  
  
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==Understand==
 
==Understand==
 
* England is just one of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, alongside Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Treating "England" and "The United Kingdom" as synonyms is a mistake commonly made by visitors, which can annoy the Welsh, Scottish & Northern Irish.  Similarly, "British" and "English" are not the same.   
 
* England is just one of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, alongside Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Treating "England" and "The United Kingdom" as synonyms is a mistake commonly made by visitors, which can annoy the Welsh, Scottish & Northern Irish.  Similarly, "British" and "English" are not the same.   
* It is important to remember that the [[Republic of Ireland]] is a completely separate state from the United Kingdom, that seceded from the Union in 1922 and gained full independence in 1937.  
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* It's important to remember that the [[Republic of Ireland]] is a completely separate state from the United Kingdom, that seceded from the Union in 1922 and gained full independence in 1937.  
  
 
===Home nations===
 
===Home nations===
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===Government===
 
===Government===
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the nominal head of state. It has a bicameral parliament: The lower house, known as the House of Commons, is elected by the people and is responsible for proposing new laws. The upper house, known as the House of Lords, primarily scrutinises and amends bills proposed by the lower house. The House of Lords is not elected and consists of Hereditary Peers, whose membership is guaranteed by birth right, Life Peers, who are appointed to it by the Queen, and the Lords Spiritual, who are bishops of the Church of England. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. It has a first-past-the post system divided into local constituencies. In practice, the Prime Minister wields the most authority in government, with the Queen being pretty much a figurehead, though all bills that have been passed in both houses of parliament require the Queen to grant royal assent before they become law.  The Queen ''does'' have limited powers to dissolve parliament and call a general election in exceptional circumstances - for example during times of war, or if an election ends in stalemate; but these are generally never exercised.
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The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the nominal head of state. It has a bicameral parliament: The lower house, known as the House of Commons, is popularly elected by the people and is responsible for proposing new laws. The upper house, known as the House of Lords, primarily scrutinises and amends bills proposed by the lower house. The House of Lords is not elected and consists of Hereditary Peers, whose membership is guaranteed by birth right, Life Peers, who are appointed to it by the Queen, and the Lords Spiritual, who are bishops of the Church of England. The Head of Government is the Prime Minister, who is usually the leader of the majority party in the House of Commons. It has a first-past-the post system divided into local constituencies. In practice, the Prime Minister wields the most authority in government, with the Queen being pretty much a figurehead, though all bills that have been passed in both houses of parliament require the Queen to grant royal assent before they become law.  The Queen ''does'' have limited powers to dissolve parliament and call a general election in exceptional circumstances - for example during times of war, or if an election ends in stalemate; but these are generally never exercised.
  
 
Additionally, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own elected bodies (the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly). These devolved governments have a First Minister and varying degrees of power over matters internal to that constituent country, including the passing of laws. For example, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh exercises power and passes laws over almost every matter internal to Scotland. In the areas over which it has power, the UK government plays no role. As a result, institutions and systems can be radically different between the four constituent countries in the UK. England has no similar body of its own, with all government coming from Westminster.  The exception to this is [[London]], which owing to its huge size and population has partial devolved government in the form of an elected Mayor and assembly, which exercises a range of powers previously controlled by both central and local governments.
 
Additionally, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own elected bodies (the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly). These devolved governments have a First Minister and varying degrees of power over matters internal to that constituent country, including the passing of laws. For example, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh exercises power and passes laws over almost every matter internal to Scotland. In the areas over which it has power, the UK government plays no role. As a result, institutions and systems can be radically different between the four constituent countries in the UK. England has no similar body of its own, with all government coming from Westminster.  The exception to this is [[London]], which owing to its huge size and population has partial devolved government in the form of an elected Mayor and assembly, which exercises a range of powers previously controlled by both central and local governments.

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