Great Britain

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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated on the British Isles. "Great Britain" is a geographical expression, but "The United Kingdom" is a political expression. Great Britain is in fact the biggest of the group of islands, which lie between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It is two and a half times the size of Ireland, the second largest. Together they are called the British Isles. Great Britain is made up of England, Scotland and Wales.

The United Kingdom is very small compared with many other countries in the world. It only covers 244046 square kilometers. Its population is about 57 million.

The main areas of high land are in Scotland, Wales and Cumbria. The highest mountains are Ben Nevis and Snowdon. The longest rivers are the Severn and the

Thames. The soils are generally deeper and richer and the climate is drier and better suited to farming in the south and east.

Britain is as far north as Siberia, yet its climate is much milder because of the Gulf Stream, which brings warm water and air across the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico.

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, but the monarch (a king or a queen) has very little power and can only reign with the support of Parliament. Parliament consists of two chambers known as the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The British democratic system depends on political parties, and there has been a party system since the 17lh century. (The Conservative and Liberal parties are the oldest). The party, which wins the majority of seats forms the Government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. The second biggest party becomes the Opposition. Its leader forms a "Shadow Cabinet". Since 1945 the Conservatives and Labour have been either the Government or the Opposition.


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