The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated on the British Isles. The British Isles consist of two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and about five thousand small islands. Their total area is over 244,000 square kilometers. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast respectively. Great Britain consists of England, Scotland and Wales and does not include Northern Ireland. But in everyday speech ‘Great Britain’ is used to mean the United Kingdom. The capital of the UK is London.
The British Isles are separated from the European continent by the North Sea and the English Channel. The western coast of Great Britain is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea. The surface of the British Isles varies very much. The north of Scotland is mountainous and is called the Highlands, while the south, which has beautiful valleys and plains, is called the Lowlands. The north and west of England are mountainous areas, but all the rest of the land, including eastern, central and southeastern terrain, stretches across a vast plain.
Mountains are not very high. Ben Nevis in Scotland is the highest mountain (1343m). There are a lot of rivers in Great Britain, but they are not very long. The Severn is the longest river, while the Thames is the deepest and the most important one. The mountains, the Atlantic Ocean and the warm waters of the Gulf Stream influence the climate of the British Isles. It is mild the whole year round.
The UK is one of the world’s smaller countries. Its population is over 58 million. About 80% of the population is urban. The UK is a highly developed industrial country. It is known as one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and navigation equipment. One of the chief industries of the country is shipbuilding. The UK is a constitutional monarchy. In law, the head of state is the Queen. In practice, the Queen reigns, but does not rule. The country is ruled by an elected government with the Prime Minister overseeing the House of Commons. There are three main political parties in Great Britain: the Labour, the Conservative and the Liberal parties. The Labour party is the ruling party nowadays and the Prime Minister is Tony Blaire.
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