B1 Intermediate UK 18726 Folder Collection
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The actual name of the sovereign state we are talking about is The United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK). The United Kingdom is made up of the countries
England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The confusion of the terms seems to revolve around the term “country” and the political
powers that are perceived based on that word. While the four countries that make up the
UK are considered separate in the minds of locals, and in certain sporting events, their
powers for local law and control are devolved from the UK. Think of the 50 states of the
United States, while each state has their own set of laws, they all are still under
the power of the federal government. In the case of the UK, it is somewhat similar, though
certain responsibilities are also implied, like healthcare and education, these are delegated
to three of the four countries. The responsibilities that are delegated differ from one country
to the next. England is the only country in which the UK does not devolve any powers and
instead it is legislated directly by the UK government. When it comes to international
politics, it is the sovereign nation of the UK that is recognized and not any of the four
constituent countries.
The term “Great Britain” refers to the land mass that comprises England, Scotland,
and Wales. Something that aids in the confusion as to the difference between Great Britain
and the UK is that the term is sometimes internationally used as a synonym for the UK. For instance,
the UK’s Olympic team competes under the name “Great Britain” and the ISO (International
Organization for Standardization) gives the UK the country codes of GB and GBR. This can
be confusing given that the ISO also codes England, Scotland, and Wales as subdivision
countries of the UK but Northern Ireland as a subdivision province. If you’re getting
the impression that Northern Ireland is the red-headed stepchild of the UK, you may well be
right! (both figuratively and literally, if you believe the current statistics for redheaded populations that is)
The confusion over the definition of these four countries, in reference to the UK, is
further muddied up in sporting competitions. There are several international sporting events,
like the commonwealth games, and football competitions, in which each of the four has
their own team, and do not compete under a unified national team. When competing under
these conditions, their nations are referred to as “home nations”. Because each team
is from a specific home country, it can lead some to think these countries have political
autonomy as well. Given the inebriated thought processes attained during the enjoyment of
these competitions, it's not too hard to understand where this drunken confusion comes from.
If you’re curious when these unions between the countries that comprise the UK came about,
it happened as follows: England and Wales were joined in 1536. Scotland and England
were joined together in 1707, along with the previously joined Wales, to officially form
the Kingdom of Great Britain. Ireland decided to join up in 1801, at which point the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed. In 1922, however, many of the Southern counties
of Ireland decided to remove themselves from the union and the UK changed their name to
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
So in summary:
Great Britain = England, Scotland, and Wales UK = England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern
Ireland (and the full name is the “United Kingdom of Great Britainㄧ and Northern Ireland”)
England = Just the part of the island that is England
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The Difference Between The United Kingdom, England, and Great Britain

18726 Folder Collection
Una Li published on July 7, 2016    Una Li translated    Steven reviewed
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