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The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is short for the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ and consists of England, Scotland and Wales along with Northern Ireland. On its own, ‘Great Britain’ comprises England, Scotland and Wales, excluding Northern Ireland

It is very common to find The Channel Islands included as part of the United Kingdom, but in fact The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man do not form part of the United Kingdom. The Channel Island Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey (comprising various islands) and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the British Crown.

Population and Economy

In mid 2010 the population of the United Kingdom was estimated at 62.3 million, which represented an increase of 0.8% from 2009.

The United Kingdom economy is ranked as the 7th largest worldwide with regard to gross nominal domestic product, the 3rd largest in the Euro zone.

The UK is considered as one of the world’s most globalised countries, with London having made its mark as the largest financial center in the world and largest city in Europe.

The G20, G8, G7, the Commonwealth of Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, World Bank, United Nations and the OECD are among the organisations in which the UK has membership.

Religion

In 1700 the supremacy of the Church of England was confirmed by the Act of Settlement. Under this Act, no future heir or heiress to the Crown could be catholic. There are however various forms of Christianity within the UK, while the religious landscape has became yet more diverse due to immigration. Anglican (Church of England), Islam, Hindu, Presbyterianism, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Orthodox are among the faiths that exist.

The State

The British State is divided into the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, all of which exercise their respective functions in the name of the Crown.

The Executive

The executive consists primarily of the Crown and Central government which includes the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The civil service, the armed forces and the police work closely with the Crown and the government and play a critical role in ensuring that the affairs of the state are properly administered.

Parliament

The UK Parliament consists of the Crown, the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

The Crown is hereditary, while members of the House of Commons are elected and those of the House of Lords are unelected. In the UK, Parliament is considered a sovereign body, and as a result both ‘Parliament’ as a body and the individual members of Parliament enjoy certain rights and immunities.

In 1975, the House of Commons (Disqualification) Act was passed to restrict the number of salaried ministers that were part of the House of Commons as a means of reducing the chances of Parliament being dominated by the executive.

Legislation is put forward by government but only Parliament enacts laws.

The Judiciary

The judiciary in the UK is diverse, comprising judges, lay magistrates, legal officers that hold positions in tribunals and the Lord Chancellor. Judicial independence is of utmost importance in ensuring that the judicial system fulfils its purpose.

Judges in the High Court and higher courts have been legally protected from interference by Parliament and the executive since 1700 by the Act of Settlement. Under this Act Senior judges can only be dismissed by a joint decision of the Crown, the House of Lords and Commons in Parliament.

Government in the United Kingdom is based on Westminster system.