THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND
To the North-West of the continent of Europe there are two large and over 5 000 small islands called the British Isles, the area of which is about 244 100 square kilometers. The largest islands are called Great Britain and Ireland. England, Wales and Scotland are the main parts of Great Britain. Together with Northern Ireland they make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland with a population of over 57 000 000.
The surface of England and Northern Ireland is rather flat, while in Scotland, Wales and North-West England there are mountains, but they are not very high. The highest mountain is Ben Nevis in Scotland (1 343 m). The rivers are short but they are deep. The longest river is the Severn, and the deepest is the Thames. The north-western part of the country, the Lake District, with its 16 lakes is known for its particular beauty.
The British climate is mild and warmer than that of the continent because of the influence of the Gulf Stream. The British often complain of it as being damp and rainy. On the average Britain has 204 rainy days a year.
The United Kingdom was originally an agricultural and sheep-farming country. Today it is a highly developed industrial power. It exports machinery, vessels, textiles and other goods. But the country buys more goods than it sells because it has to import food products and raw materials.
The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, although it has no written constitution. The monarch, now the queen, is the head of the state. But in practice the country is governed by the elected government with a Prime Minister at the head, the monarch’s power being limited by the Parliament which consists of two chambers – the House of Lords and the House of Commons. The House of Lords is made up of hereditary peers and lords, the House of Commons consists of 630 elected members. The elections to Parliament are held every five years. The Prime Minister is appointed by the monarch, and, as a rule, it is the leader of the party that has won the election.
Main political parties are Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats.