Britain lies off the north-west coast of the Europe across the English Channel, the Strait of Dover and the North Sea. It consists of two large islands (Great Britain and Irealnd0 and about 5000 smaller ones (e.g. the Isle of Wight, the Isles of Scilly, the Isle of Man, Anglesey, the Hebrides, the Orkneys, the Shetlands and the Channel Islands). Its neighbours are Ireland to west and France to south-east. It covers the are of about two and a half square kilometres. Britain consists of four countries: England (London capital), Scotland (Edinburgh), Wales (Cardiff) and North Ireland (Belfast). London, the capital is the centre of government for the whole of Britain but local authorities are also partly responsible for education, health care, roads, the police and some other things. England is mostly rolling land, rising to the Uplands of southern Scotland. The main mountain regions here are the Cornish Heights (south-west England), the Cambrians (Wales), the Cambrian Mountains (in the Lake District), the Pennines (the Backbone of England). The Cheviot Hills are on the border between England and Scotland. The Highlands of Scotland are the highest mountains in Britain (with the highest mountain Ben Nevis - 1342 km). Coast is heavily indented especially on the west. The longest rivers are the Severn (354 km), Thames (336 km), Clyde in Scotland, the Humber and the Mersey. Rivers are very important as sources of energy (Tweed). There are beautiful lake areas in Cumbria (Lake Windermere), the Highlands of Scotland (Loch Lomond and Loch Ness) and in Ireland (Lough Neagh). Lakes are not important for freight transport but thy are a big tourist attraction. Britain also has a dense network of canals, which are important for freight transport - Manchester Ship canal. British Isles have milder climate due to the Gulf Stream, which comes from the Gulf of Mexico to Western Europe. That is why winter temperatures are higher and summer temperatures are lower.
Population is about 57 million people. The density is one of the highest in the world - 232 people to one square kilometre. Most inhabitants live in urban areas. In Britain we can find the following ethnic groups: English (81.5%), Scottish (9.6%), Irish (2.4), Welsh (1.9), Ulster (1.8), Indian, Pakistan and others (Jews, Italian, Chinese, Caribbeans, Cypriots). The majority of people speak English. There are minority languages, which are of Celtic origin - Welsh, Scottish and Irish Gaelic.
The main industries are steel, metals, vehicles, ship building, shipping, banking, insurance, textiles, chemicals, electronics, aircraft, machinery, distilling. Important centres of industry are Yorkshire, London, Manchester, South Wales, etc. 30% of land is arable and the main agricultural products are grains, sugar beet, fruit, and vegetables. British cattle and sheep breeding earn lots of money. Britain's natural riches are mainly coal (black coal in Midland have world significance, this area is called also Black-land), tin, oil and gas (in North Sea), limestone, iron, salt, clay, chalk, zinc and lead. Major economic activities are manufacturing and trade. Main exports: machinery, chemicals, clothing, cars, lorries, jet aircraft, ships, drugs, scientific instruments, arms, books, whisky (scotch whisky). The valid currency in Britain is one pound, which has hundred pence. The best known newspapers and magazines in Britain are The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mirror. There are two main public institutions ensuring television and radio broadcasting in Great Britain: BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority). The best known channels are BBC I, BBC II, ITV and Channel IV. There are also many local televisions, which brings local news, such as Grenada television in Liverpool.
Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy. Parliamentary democracy is practised there. Parliament consists of two houses - the House of Lords (hereditary for life) and the House of Commons. There are 635 seats here. Elections take place after five years. The Prime Minister selects the other ministers. Twenty of them form the Cabinet. The second most powerful party forms the Opposition. British national flag is sometimes called "Union Jack". It symbolises the Union of England, Scotland and Ireland. Each country has its cross in the flag: England has St. George's Cross (white oblong and red cross), Scotland has St. Andrew's Cross (blue with white diagonal) and Ireland has St. Patrick's Cross (white with red diagonal). National anthem is "God Save the Queen!". Each part of Great Britain also has its own symbol: England has the red rose, Wales has the leek and daffodil, and Scotland has the thistle and Ireland the shamrock.
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