The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the United Kingdom, the UK or Britain) is a sovereign state located off the north-western coast of continental Europe. The country includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a land border with another sovereign state— the Irish Free State. Apart from this land border the UK is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, the English Channel and the Irish Sea.
The UK has a parliamentary government based on the Westminster system that has been emulated around the world: a legacy of the British Empire. The parliament of the United Kingdom that meets in the Palace of Westminster has two houses; an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords. All bills passed are given Royal Assent before becoming law.
The position of prime minister, the UK's head of government, belongs to the member of parliament who can obtain the confidence of a majority in the House of Commons, usually the leader of the largest political party in that chamber. The prime minister chooses a cabinet and they are formally appointed by the monarch to form Her Majesty's Government. By convention, the Queen respects the prime minister's decisions of government.
The cabinet is traditionally drawn from members of the Prime Minister's party in both legislative houses, and mostly from the House of Commons, to which they are responsible. Executive power is exercised by the prime minister and cabinet, all of whom are sworn into the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, and become Ministers of the Crown.
The main political parties are
- Conservative Party (Conservative and Unionist Party),
- Liberal Party,
- Labour Party,
- Ulster Unionist Party,
Notable parties, but not having achieved parliamentary representation: Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB)
The Home Nations or countries of the United Kingdom are:
|Northern Ireland||13,843||Belfast||Yes (1923)||Northern Ireland law||Since 1923|
|Ireland (until 1914)||81,638||Dublin||Yes (1914)||English Law||Home rule between 1914-1922. After 1922/1923 partitioned in Irish Free State and Northern Ireland|
The Crown dependencies are self-governing possessions of the British Crown. They comprise the Channel Islands (the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel), and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.