The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the United Kingdom or informally known as Britain, is a country off the northwest coast of Continental Europe, geographically covering all of Great Britain, the northern part of the Isle of Ireland, and some other British Isles. The UK only has a land border with Ireland. It is bordered by the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south, and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is the 12th country with the longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates the United Kingdom from Ireland. The area of the United Kingdom is approximately 240 thousand km².
The United Kingdom is a unitary parliamentary democracy and is governed by a constitutional monarchy. Queen Elizabeth has been at the head of the country since 1952. Its capital and largest city, London is a metropolis of 10.3 million inhabitants and a global financial centre. The United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, respectively. All of these countries are on the island of Great Britain, with the exception of Northern Ireland on the Isle of Ireland. Countries other than England have self-government based on delegation of authority and each administration has different levels of authority. Other major cities are Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
The Kingdom of England (including Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland united in the 1707 Treaty of Union to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. With the Acts of Union of 1800, the Kingdom of Ireland joined the country and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. After five-sixths of Ireland gained independence in 1922, the name United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, adopted in 1927 and still used today, came into existence.
Guernsey in the English Channel (including the islands of Alderney and Sark) and Jersey and the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea are called the Crown Lands and are not considered part of the United Kingdom, but are the responsibility of the British government in foreign and defence. There are also 14 British Overseas Territories. These lands are the remnants of the British Empire and have spread all over the world. The British Empire was the largest territorial state in history, and at its peak in the 1920s, it covered a quarter of the world’s territory. For this reason, it was called “the empire on which the sun never sets”. Britain’s influence on its former colonies is still felt today in the fields of language, culture and politics.
As of 2021, the UK is the world’s 5th largest economy by nominal GDP and 10th largest by purchasing power parity. It ranks 13th in the world in the 2019 Human Development Index. It was the world’s first industrialized country and was the world’s leading power from the 19th to the early 20th centuries. Today, the UK is considered a great power: it has a worldwide influence in the economy, defence, science, technology and politics. It is a nuclear-armed state and ranks sixth in defense spending in the world. It is also a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.
The United Kingdom is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization. It was a member of the European Economic Community (EEC) and its successor, the European Union, from 1973 to 2020.
United Kingdom is the official abbreviation of the country name and is widely used. The word Great Britain is also sometimes used to mean the United Kingdom. The name of England, which is the most developed and populous country formed by the founding elements of the United Kingdom, is used instead of the United Kingdom in many foreign media outlets and occasionally in official channels. The official designation used for citizens of the country is British. However, the word English is also widely used in the international community. The word Briton is also used informally from time to time to describe the people living in England, especially in the British sense.
The Celts are the oldest peoples of the United Kingdom. Between 55 BC and 410 AD, the British Isles formed the Roman province of Britannia. In the 5th century, the region came under the influence of Christianity. In the same years, the Anglo-Saxons, a Germanic people, immigrated to the island in large numbers. Between 1066-1154 the Normans, who were also a Germanic race, took over the island. The English are the continuation of these Germanic races. Scots, Welsh and Irish are descendants of the Celts.
VIII, one of the former monarchs of the United Kingdom. Edward was the first British monarch to abdicate voluntarily.
During the Tudor Dynasty, the Kingdom of England grew stronger, leaving Scotland behind. Queen Elizabeth I of England laid the foundations of the British Empire by defeating the Spanish Armada, the strongest navy in Europe, in 1588. Growing stronger in the 17th century, England established colonies in North America. In 1707 England and Scotland united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1800, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was established by adding Ireland to this union. During the reign of Victoria I, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, the United Kingdom began to be called “the empire on which the sun never sets”. By 1921, this empire covered an area of 36.6 million square kilometers including India, North America, the Middle East, Australia and Africa, ruled a population of 458 million, and a quarter of the world in population was under British rule.
In the 20th century, this empire slowly began to disintegrate. In 1922, Ireland gained its independence. In 1947, India and Pakistan became independent countries. In 1948 the United Kingdom withdrew from Palestine. Numerous countries followed throughout the 20th century. Hong Kong’s independence in 1997 can be seen as the last part of the British colonial empire. The former colonies of the United Kingdom today cooperate economically and politically under the umbrella of the Commonwealth of Nations. Although the United Kingdom has lost its superpower status to the United States, it maintains its place among the most powerful countries in the world. Although the United Kingdom is outside the Euro Area, it is among the most important countries of the European Union; however, in the referendum held in 2016, the people of the country chose to leave the European Union. On January 31, 2020, it left the European Union completely.
The area of the United Kingdom is approximately 243,610 square kilometers. Covering the majority of the British Isles, the country includes the entire island of Great Britain, one-sixth of the north east of the island of Ireland. It lies between the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea; It gets as close as 35 kilometers to France, with the English Channel between them.
- Official head of state: King or queen. Regional free elections, parliamentary democracy.
- Executive power: Government led by the Prime Minister.
- Population: 65.1 million people. 85% of the population lives in England.
- The country’s constitution is not written.
The Queen is the head of state. Executive power is exercised by the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on behalf of the queen. Legislative power is vested in the two bodies of the UK Parliament, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, as well as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The highest court is the UK Supreme Court.
Monarch: Queen II. Elizabeth.
Officially, the monarch is also the head of state of some of the Commonwealth of Nations (including Canada and Australia).
Queen’s wife: Prince Philip.
Heirs to the throne: Prince Charles, then his eldest son, Prince William, then Prince George.
Elizabeth and Philip’s other children: Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward.
The Queen’s mother, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, died on March 30, 2002.
Sovereignty in the UK is passed from parents to children by blood, regardless of gender. You cannot become a king or queen by marriage. The current queen’s consort is Prince Philip.
The parliament, one of the oldest in the world, consists of two parts: the House of Commons, whose members are elected for (at most) five-year terms, and the House of Commons, which used to be a majority aristocratic whose membership passed from father to son but is now usually appointed by the government and the Queen for life. House of Lords. Since 2001, there has been a reform effort to modernize membership in the House of Lords, but still no new system has emerged. In the United Kingdom, which has a parliamentary monarchy, the Prime Minister is the head of the government and the Queen is the head of the state. Despite the Queen’s symbolic head of state, legislative power rests with the parliament.
England is a country where the Parliamentary regime was born and still implemented under the umbrella of the United Kingdom, and the parliamentary regime here is also called the “Westminster Model”. In this model implemented in the United Kingdom, legislative power is embodied in the legislature formed by the representatives of the people. This power cannot be shared by any other institution. Moreover, the deputies whose representations have been registered through free and fair elections are the only delegation that legitimately has the authority to take political decisions on behalf of the people. Because they are the ones whose authority to represent the dominant will has been legally registered. The people (voters) have registered with the election process that they have transferred and handed over this power to use them for the legal period they have been elected. Therefore, the parliament, which is the representative of the people (voters), (in practice, members of the House of Commons, which is the sub-chamber) have the power to take decisions based on legitimate authority on all kinds of issues. They are only accountable to the public for their political decisions during the election period. If the people (voters) do not approve of them, they express their preference by not voting for them. It is the duty of the representatives to be elected after a term to abolish these resolutions or to replace them with new ones. In this practice, the people have no direct influence on the administration of the political system; People influence decisions only indirectly.
It is useful to list the main features that draw attention in the implementation of the parliamentary regime in the United Kingdom:
• The legislature is bicameral and the lower house is the user of political sovereignty.
• Party government is fundamental, and the prime minister and cabinet, who exercise the executive power, are also fused with and influence the legislature.
• This regime works based on a two-party party system.
• The right-left distinction includes a simplicity based on social class, consisting of only one dimension.
• The electoral system is organized on the basis of narrow district and majority.
• A central and unitary management system is dominant. It contains the principles of the Westminster system of government, which is not written, or even does not exist according to some thinkers, according to a constitution, according to a purely legislative sovereignty and an exclusively representative democracy.
Another feature of the party system in Westminster model democracy is that it is one-dimensional. What distinguishes political parties from each other is what the socio-economic policies will be according to the right and left spectrum. For example, in the UK, the Labor Party represents the left-of-center preferences, while the Conservative Party represents the right-of-center preferences. The basis of the differentiation of political parties according to their socio-economic policies lies in the fact that the differences of opinion on ethnic, religious and similar issues have a nature that will not have a political significance.
When making laws, they are first discussed in the House of Commons and then in the House of Lords and are enacted with the Queen’s approval. The typical electoral system of a Westminster-model democracy is a majoritarian system. According to this system, the candidate who gets the majority votes or if there is no majority, the candidate who gets the most votes wins the election. The majority electoral system can also be considered as an indicator of the Anglo-Saxon world’s understanding of democracy.
One of the important elements of Westminster model democracy is the principle of parliamentary sovereignty. Again, if we look at the example of the United Kingdom, the power of parliament can be clearly seen. There is no body to oversee parliament in the UK. Legally, there are no limits to the legislative power. Parliament makes or removes constitutional rules just like ordinary laws. The only factor that parliament takes into account is public opinion. On the other hand, the absence of a written constitution in the United Kingdom that can limit the power of the parliament has further increased the importance of public opinion. In this context, it can be said that the basis of Westminster democracy is a free public opinion and a political culture that includes being sensitive to this public opinion. It is because of this political culture that in the UK the opposition need not fear oppression or tyranny by the government. Although there are no legal and institutional guarantees, the feeling of freedom in the British people is the greatest guarantee.
Under constitutional rules, the prime minister and the cabinet are excluded from the Lords and the House of Commons. At the beginning of the 20th century, the supremacy of the House of Commons was clearly established. With the People’s Budget draft law enacted in 1909, a taxation system was intended to be enacted against the owners. The House of Lords rejected this law as it was generally made up of proprietor aristocrats. As a result of the popularity of this law and the loss of popularity of the house of lords, the Whig won the general elections in 1910, and the prime minister Herbert Henry Asquith proposed appointing new liberal nobles from the king to the House of Lords to pass the new laws, and as a result, the House of Lords accepted the new tax law. Sessions in both chambers are led by the group leader. It is headed by the Lord Chancellor, the group leader in the House of Lords. If the Lord Chancellor is unable to attend the session, he may appoint a member of his own group or appoint a member of the Crown.
The House of Commons has the right to elect its own group leader. Generally, a chairman and 3 deputies are elected. The lord chancellor has little influence as caucus, and his power is inversely proportional to the power of the House of Commons bandleader.
Decisions are usually made by open voting. Whereas the Speaker of the House of Commons may have a declaration to annul the resolutions, the Lord Chancellor has no such sanction. Voting takes place in the Lobby and is determined by the voting clerks. The Speaker of the House of Commons is generally expected to be a nonpartisan independent.
General elections are followed by a new parliamentary legislative period. If the Prime Minister loses the support of the parliament, he resigns or ends the parliament and goes to reelection. Going to elections is sometimes also in the form of early elections when the political victory of the Prime Minister’s party is believed. At first there was no definite limit to the parliamentary term. The maximum was reduced to 3 years by the Triennial Law of 1694. As a result of the disturbance caused by the frequent elections, the maximum was increased to 7 years with the Septennial law of 1716, and it was limited to 5 years again in 1911. The second world war remained for 10 years, excluding the 10-year temporary war period. In general, a maximum of 5 years is expected, before the time expires, the parliament is dissolved and elections are held. For example, in 1997, the 56th government assembly was dissolved after 4 years and went to elections. Previously, Parliament was automatically dissolved upon the death of the king. The death of the king by the 1867 People’s Law does not affect the term of the Parliament.
As a result of the end of the parliamentary term, the House of Commons deputies are re-elected by general election. The House of Lords is not affected by this election. The current Parliament is the 54th parliamentary term. In other words, in the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dated 1801, there are 54 Parliamentary periods to date. The earlier parliament was called England and Great Britain (1707). Laws can only be taken by the UK Parliament. Due to Scottish Law, laws sometimes did not apply in Scotland or were replaced by similar Scottish Law. Since 1999, the Scottish Parliament has been the competent legislative body.
Draft laws are called bills and are presented by each proxy, although they are usually presented by the throne minister. Laws submitted by the Minister are called Government Bills and those submitted by proxies are called Special Proxy Drafts. In another classification, those that concern the general public are called Community Drafts, those that concern a special group or individuals are called Special Drafts, and those that have exceptions that concern the public are called Mixed Drafts.
Projects develop in different stages. The first phase is the first reading phase, which usually involves formality. The next phase is the Second Reading phase, where the content of the project is discussed. At the end of the Second Reading phase, there is a possibility of voting by the parliament and being rejected by the parliament as a result of the voting. However, Government proposals are rarely rejected. (Last happened in 2005) After the Second Reading phase, the bill is sent to the relevant law committee. The Grand Committee or the All Houses Committee is used in the House of Lords. It is passed through a special procedure in a way that does not cause discussion here. In the House of Commons, it is handled by the Continuity Committee, which consists of 50-60 people. The All Houses Committee is used in important bills. The committees examine the drafts item by item and, if necessary, send the bill back with its own amendment proposal for reconsideration. The group heads in the chambers have the authority to decide which amendment proposal will be discussed.
After the draft is reviewed in the chamber, the Third Reading phase begins. If no further changes are requested in the House of Commons, the Third Reading phase is declared to be completed and presented to the House of Lords. The bill becomes law as a result of voting in the House of Lords. If a dispute in one of the chambers is not resolved, the bill will not become law.
As a result of the Parliament Act of 1911, the power of the House of Lords to reject bills was significantly restricted and these restrictions were further increased in 1949. Accordingly, if the House of Commons passed the bill twice and the House of Lords rejected it both times and sent it back, it would be sent to the Kingdom for approval regardless of the House of Lords’ refusal. In both cases, the bill will be delayed for at least one calendar month before being finalized in the House of Commons. Bills containing only national taxes and public funds are submitted by the House of Commons group presidents, and if the House of Lords takes more than a month to approve, the lower house sends them directly to the Kingdom for approval. The final phase in the Bill is the Kingdom Reconciliation Phase. After the approval of the Kingdom, the bill becomes law. The Kingdom usually always gives consent, as in countries governed by a modern constitutional monarchy. The last bill repealed was the bill on the resettlement of Militants in Scotland in 1708.
As a result, every bill becomes a law through three convocations of Parliament. All laws are theoretically enacted after they are approved in the Kingdom by the approval of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
The party currently in power is the Conservative Party alone. The main opposition is the Labor Party. The parties that have MPs in the House of Commons as of February 2020 are as follows:
- Conservative Party
- Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland only)
- Green Party
- Labor Party
- Liberal Democrats
- Plaid Cymru (Wales only)
- Scottish National Party (Scotland only)
- Sinn Fein (Northern Ireland only)
- Social Democratic Labor Party (Northern Ireland only)
- Northern Ireland Alliance Party (Northern Ireland only)
Political and administrative regions
Traditionally and historically Great Britain and Northern Ireland have been subdivided into counties (county literally means county and singular county is referred to as plural counties).
These local chapters are still ceremonially maintained. For each ceremonial county, the Queen has a Lord-Lieutenant (whose legal powers and duties are clearly defined by a 1998 law, while previously her powers and duties were purely customary), and for some ceremonial counties, however, they In addition, he appoints a “County High Sheriff. These people are at the head of protocol as the queen’s representative at local official ceremonies.
But since the 1960s, the local government system has taken a very complex and heterogeneous shape with major changes from time to time.
Today, the United Kingdom consists of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Local government is different in each country.
There is no elected assembly or government with special powers on long-term strategic local issues for the principal country of England. In the 1990s, the original England was administratively divided into nine ‘Government Office Regions’. It was once planned to establish an elected regional council and administration for each of these 9 administrative regions. However, the North East England Regional Administrative Council draft, which was envisaged as a result of a trial referendum, was rejected by the people of the region, and as a result, this approach was abandoned “for the time being”. The coalition government that came to power in 2010 abolished these “government administrative district” offices and started to create a council consisting of representatives of local administrative units within the region and small secretariats that provided administrative support to them.
There is a popularly elected Mayor and a special “London Assembly” for the Greater London area. The Greater London area is subdivided into 19 smaller London-type boroughs. One of these London-type towns is the old historical City of London. Another is the Queen’s “Buckingham Palace” in London, the prime minister’s residence “10 Downing Street”, the city of Westminster, where the parliament and the important ministries of the central government are located.
Other parts of the original England are governed by two different kinds of local government.
- Single-level (unitary) local government units are mostly located in urban areas and are similar to municipal administrations found in other European countries. The names of these single-level local administrations vary widely: city, town, royal borough or district. These one-level administrations are headed by mayors (mayor). Generally, the mayor is a ceremonial duty, and the chairman of the elected administrative council undertakes this duty. But in recent years, mayors for some local government units have started to come directly by election and they have been assigned with greater powers.
- Binary local governments, on the other hand, have “county” administrations called the shire county as the upper level, and below them are the sub-local-district (“district” or “borough”) administrations as the second level. In the binary administration system, the powers and duties of both levels are different, and they are generally determined by a special law called “1972 Local Administration Reform Law”, which was prepared in 1972 and entered into force in 1974.
For example, the County of Lancashire, headquartered in Preston in the North-West England region, is governed by a binary system. At the top level of this local government is the Lancashire County Council and below it are 12 sub-districts (“districts” or “boroughs”). But the “Territorial County of Lancashire” includes this two-level “County of Lancashire” as well as the one-level local government of “Borough of Blackpool” and “Borough of Burnley and Darwen”.
The local government of the original UK country was also two-level, according to the reform law made in 1972, with the metropolitan “Metropolitan County” administration at the top level and “metropolitan-local-administration-regions” at the second level. Two-level local authorities of this type were the Greater London, the West Midlands including Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Merseyside including Liverpool, South Yorkshire including Sheffield and West Yorkshire including Leeds. But all the top tiers of such local governments have been dissolved by the Conservative Thatcher government. The “metropolitan-local-administrative-regions” under these “metropolitan counties” began to be administered as “single-level-metropolitan-local-administrative-regions”. However, in 1998 the Labor Party again renewed the London Metropolitan Assembly and Mayor’s Office and the “Greater London” local administration.
For the Welsh administration, there is the National Assembly of Wales, a government and country administration, located in Cardiff on the top floor, with limited legal and administrative powers and powers, which are formed through an election. However, the legal and enforcement powers for this administration are very limited. The Welsh local government is divided into 22 single-level local authorities. Of these, 9 are called counties, 10 are called county boroughs and 3 are called cities.
For the Scottish administration, there is the Scottish Parliament as the electoral legal power on the top floor and the Scottish Executive as the administrative power. They are located in Edinburgh and are also referred to as Holyroyd for short, in reference to the “Holyroyd Palace”, the royal palace of Scotland. Local government consists of nine sub-regional districts (Council areas) and three archipelago districts (Outer Islands, Orkney and Shetland) in Scotland.
For Northern Ireland, there is an elected, statutory Assembly called the Stormont, whose power is withdrawn from time to time, and the Northern Ireland government. As a local government, it is divided into 26 communities.
The currency of the United Kingdom is the British pound. One pound consists of 100 pence. The decimal system of currency was introduced in 1971. Before that date, a pound consisted of 20 shillings and a shilling consisted of 12 pence, that is, a pound consisted of 240 pence.
The UK has a partially centrally controlled free market economy. It forms the fifth largest economy in the world and the second largest in Europe after Germany. The government’s economic policies are implemented by the UK Ministry of Finance. As of 2016, 78.8% of the Gross Domestic Product was the service sector. The service sector is the main sector behind the country’s economic growth.