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Facts about Britain

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the official name of the nation known as "Britain". The United Kingdom, or U.K., consists of Great Britain
(i.e. the large island that is made up of England, Scotland and Wales), Northern Ireland, and a lot of coastal islands (The Isle of Wight, Anglsey, the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland, and others). England is just the largest country in the United Kingdom.

Britain is an island, with a mild climate. The south of Britain is mostly low-lying land, with hills and agricultural land; the north of England, Wales and Scotland are mostly covered in moorland and mountains. The highest mountains in Britain are only about 1300 metres high (Ben Nevis, in Scotland, is Britain's highest point), but they are real rocky mountains, because of Britain's latitude. Snow lies on Ben Nevis for half the year or more; but in the south of England, snow only lies for a few days each winter, and sometimes never at all. There is plenty of rain in Britain, particularly in the west. In summer, daytime temperatures do not often rise above 25°c. Britain's longest rivers are the Severn (220 miles) and the Thames (215 miles).

People from the U.K. are called the British, or Britons. Depending on where in Britain they come from, they may also be called "English", "Scottish" (or "Scots"), "Welsh"
or "Northern Irish".

English is the official language in the whole of the UK, but Gaelic is also an official language in Scotland, and Welsh in Wales.

The total population of the U.K. is about 55 million, it will probably reach about
60 million by the year 2030, then start to fall. The population is very unevenly distributed: 5 million people live in Scotland, 2.8 million people live in Wales,
1.6 million people live in Northern Ireland and 46 million people live in England.
A third of the people in England live in the South East of the country, in London
and the "Home Counties" (the region around London). The population of Britain is concentrated in the south - the South East is the most populated region.
There are hardly any people living in the Highlands of Scotland.

The main industrial regions of Britain are in the north, near the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield and Birmingham. These regions became important in the 19th century, because of their rich mineral resources (coal, iron etc.). The main economic centre in today's Britain is London - the most important city for service sector industries (financial services, etc.). The London area is one of the most prosperous areas in Europe, and average incomes (the money people earn or receive) are higher the London area (the South East region) than in the rest of Britain. Unemployment is lowest in the London region too, as the service sector is constantly creating more jobs.

Britain's Head of State is the monarch (the Queen). She must sign all new laws, and she receives other heads of state who visit Britain; but apart from that, her function is mainly symbolic. She opens Parliament every autumn, and in theory she nominates "her" prime minister. In reality, the prime minister is the leader of the biggest political party. She has regular consultations with the Prime Minister, but does not have any role in deciding policies.
The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy; however, as a Parliamentary Democracy, the ultimate authority in the land is Parliament - not the Prime Minister nor the Monarch.

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