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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 termcountryand 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 termGreat Britainrefers 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 nameGreat Britainand 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 youre 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 ashome 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 youre 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 theUnited Kingdom of Great Britainand Northern Ireland”)

  • England = Just the part of the island that is England


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