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The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated off the northwestern coast of Europe. The UK lies on the British Isles. There are some 5500 islands. The two main islands are: Great Britain and Ireland. They are separated from the continent by the English Channel and the Strait of Dover. The western coast of the country is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea, the eastern coast is washed by the North Sea. The area of the UK is some 244100 square kilometres. Its population is over 57 million people. English is the official language, but it is not the only language which people speak in the country.
The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. England is the southern part of Great Britain. Birmingham is the Britain’s “second city”. Rifles, pistols, various machinery, railway cars, motor cars, electrical equipment, scientific instruments and many other things are produced in Birmingham in great quantities. Sheffield is the city of steel. The main centers of the textile region are Liverpool and Manchester. Liverpool is the second after London port of Great Britain.
Wales is one of the big mining districts in Britain. The capital of Wales is Cardiff.
Scotland is the northern part of Great Britain. Scotland is an agricultural country. The old capital of Scotland is Edinburgh. Glasgow is the third largest city in Great Britain. It is known the world over for its shipbuilding yards.
Northern Ireland occupies the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland. Its capital is Belfast.
Britain has been many centuries in the making. The Romans conquered most part of Britain, but were unable to subdue the independent tribes in the west and in the north. Other invaders were Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings and Normans. For many centuries this country was known simply as England. It had strong army and navy. It waged numerous colonial wars. In the modern world England was the first country, where capitalism was established.
The surface of the British isles varies very much. The north of Scotland is mountainous and is called Highlands, while the south, which has beautiful valleys and plains, is called Lowlands. The north and west of England are mountainous, but all the rest – east, centre and south-east – is a vast plain. Mountains are not very high. Ben Nevis in Scotland is the highest mountain (1343 m).
There are a lot of rivers in Great Britain, but they are not very long. The Severn is the longest river, while the Thames is the deepest and the most important one.
The UK is a highly developed industrial country. It is known as one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of machinery, electronics, textile, aircraft and navigation equipment. One of the chief industries of the country is shipbuilding.
The position of Great Britain gives it a temperate climate. Britain lies in the eastern part of the Atlantic Ocean. It is surrounded by the sea, which makes the climate warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
The Gulf Stream influences the English climate greatly. It makes the sea warm.
The climate is not the same in all parts of England. The western part of England is warmer than the eastern one and it also has more rains. The western hills and mountains shut out some of the mild winds from the Atlantic. On the western coast gales are always strong. The south-western part winds are the most frequent. They usually bring mild weather.
There is much humidity in the air of England. Britain is well known as a foggy country. The annual temperature in London is about 8 degrees.
British political system
Britain is a constitutional monarchy. That means it is a country governed by a king or queen who accepts the advice of a parliament. It is also a parliamentary democracy. That is, it is a country whose government is controlled by a parliament which has been elected by the people. In other words, the basic system is not so different from anywhere else in Europe. The highest positions in the government are filled by members of the directly elected parliament. In Britain, as in many European countries, the official head of state, whether a monarch (as in Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark) or a president (as in Germany, Greece and Italy) has little real power.
However, there are features of the British system of government which make it different from that in other countries and which are not 'modern' at all. The most notable of these is the question of the constitution. Britain is almost alone among modern states in that it does not have 'a constitution' at all. Of course, there are rules, regulations, principles and procedures for the running of the country - all the things that political scientists and legal experts study and which are known collectively as 'the constitution'. But there is no single written document which can be appealed to as the highest law of the land and the final arbiter in any matter of dispute. Nobody can refer to 'article 6' or 'the first amendment' or anything like that, because nothing like that exists.
The activities of Parliament in Britain are more or less the same as those of the Parliament in any western democracy. It makes new laws, gives authority for the government to raise and spend money, keeps a close eye on government activities and discusses those activities.
The British Parliament works in a large building called the Palace of Westminster (popularly known as 'the Houses of Parliament'). This contains offices, committee rooms, restaurants, bars, libraries and even some places of residence. It also contains two larger rooms. One of these is where the House of Lords meets, the other is where the House of Commons meets. The British Parliament is divided into two 'houses', and its members belong to one or other of them, although only members of the Commons are normally known as MPs (Members of Parliament). The Commons is by far the more important of the two houses.
A unique feature of the British parliamentary system is its hereditary element. Unlike MPs, members of the House of Lords (known as 'peers') are not elected. They are members as of right. In the case of two-thirds of them, this 'right' is the result of their being the holder of an inherited aristocratic title. The House of Lords is therefore a relic of earlier, undemocratic times. The fact that it still exists is perhaps typically British. It has been allowed to survive but it has had to change, losing most of its power and altering its composition in the process.
The House of Lords (like the monarchy) has little, if any, real power any more. All proposals must have the agreement of the Lords before they can become law. But the power of the Lords to refuse a proposal for a law which has been agreed by the Commons is now limited. After a period which can be as short as six months the proposal becomes law anyway, whether or not the Lords agree.
The position of British Prime Minister (PM) is in direct contrast to that of the monarch. Although the Queen appears to have a great deal of power, in reality she has very little. The PM, on the other hand, appears not to have much power but in reality has a very great deal indeed. The Queen is, in practice, obliged to give the job of Prime Minister to the person who can command a majority in the House of Commons. This normally means the leader of the party with the largest number of MPs.
There are three main political parties in Great Britain: the Labour, the Conservative and the Liberal parties.
I. Read and transcribe the names of the following cities:
Belfast, Cardiff, London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle.
II. Fill in the table with the following words related to geography, industry and political life:
chamber, channel, coal, island, kingdom, majority, ocean, manufacture, power, sea, river, party, capital, monarchy, queen, lake, policy, shipbuilding, mountain, continent, parliament, factory, government, minister, statesman, republic.
III. Say the following in one word using the essential vocabulary of the text:
1) a wife of a king or a woman monarch;
2) salt water that covers more than two thirds of earth surface;
3) the total of people in a country, region, city etc;
4) more than a half;
5) to send goods to another country;
6) to be situated;
7) a country headed by a king or queen;
8) black mineral used as fuel;
9) a land surrounded by water.
IV. Read the text ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. Find the English equivalents for the following Russian sentences.
1. Соединенное Королевство Великобритании и Северной Ирландии расположено на Британских островах.
2. Соединенное Королевство – высокоразвитая индустриальная держава.
3. Соединенное Королевство включает четыре страны: Англию, Шотландию, Уэльс и Северную Ирландию.
4. Северная Ирландия занимает северо-восточную часть острова Ирландия.
5. Климат не одинаков во всех частях Англии.
6. Хотя кажется, что королева обладает большой властью, в действительности она имеет очень мало власти.
7. Британский парламент работает в большом здании, которое называется Вестминстерский дворец (общеизвестен как здание парламента).
8. Британский парламент разделен на две палаты, и его члены принадлежат к одной или другой из них, хотя только членов палаты общин называют членами парламента.
V. Fill in the blanks with the suitable words.
1. The Severn is the …… river, while the Thames is the …… one.
2. The western coast of Great Britain is washed by …… and ……, the eastern coast is washed by ……
3. The north of Scotland is …… and is called the ……, while the south, which has beautiful …… and …… is called the ……
4. The climate of Great Britain is ……
5. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: …………
6. England is the …… part of Great Britain.
7. Sheffield is the city of ……
8. Glasgow is known the world over for its ……
9. Great Britain is a country governed by a …… or ……. who accepts the advice of a ……
10. The British Parliament is divided into two …
VI. Read the text ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ and ask your fellow students:
1. where the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is situated;
2. what the area of the UK is;
3. what the population of the UK is;
4. who conquered Britain;
5. what countries the UK is made up of;
6. what capitals of these countries are;
7. what the climate of Great Britain is;
8. what influences the climate of Great Britain;
9. what the surface of the British Isles is;
10. if the UK is a highly developed industrial country;
11. what means that Britain is a constitutional monarchy;
12. if Great Britain has a constitution;
13. what activities of Parliament in the UK are;
14. what chambers the British Parliament consists of;
15. what chamber is more important;
16. what the main parties in Great Britain are.
VII. Disagree with the statements. Avoid simple negation.
Model: - The British Prime Minister lives in Buckingham Palace.
- No, I don’t think that’s correct. The Prime Minister lives at 10 Downing Street. Buckingham Palace is the residence of the Queen.
1. The members of the House of Lords are elected by the people.
2. Leeds is the capital of Britain.
3. The population of Great Britain is about 8 million.
4. Manchester is the sea port in Scotland.
5. The English channel separates the British Isles from Scandinavia.
6. The main items of British exports are oranges, bananas and wheat.
7. Britain imports coal, steel and aircraft.
8. Britain is a parliamentary republic.
VIII. Read the following selections and speak about the main cities in Britain.
In the heart of England about 112 miles north-west of London is Birmingham. Birmingham is a city with the population of over one million. It is the centre of the iron industry. The district around Birmingham is known as the Black Country. It is the land of factories and mines. Steam-engines, motor-cars, railway carriages, bicycles and agricultural implements are manufactured in the factories of the Black Country.
Great Britain lives by manufacture and trade. Its agriculture provides only half the food it needs, the other half of its food has to be imported.
Britain is one of the most highly industrialized countries in the world: for every person employed in agriculture, eleven are employed in mining, manufacturing and building. The industrial centres of Great Britain are London, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and others.
Manchester is the centre of the cotton industry. With its large suburb Salford Manchester has a population of nearly one million. Manchester has few ancient buildings but few English cities have better parks of which there are over fifty. The largest of them is Heaton Park. Manchester is rich in libraries and schools. The University of Manchester founded in 1880 is famous for its studies.
Bristol is not a very large port. It is smaller than Plymouth, Liverpool, Portsmouth and Dover but it is very beautiful.
Bristol is divided into two parts. One of them is the port on the Avon with narrow streets, old churches and half timber houses. It has a wooden eighteenth century theatre untouched since those days.
This was the port from which many ships sailed in Elizabeth’s reign. The eighteenth century stone houses climb up the hills past the beautiful and little known cathedral to the second part of Bristol. This part is more modern and it has many fine houses built of pink stone and many wonderful monuments and churches. Bristol has a college named College Green, the University, the art gallery and some museums. The University building has a very high tower from the top of which you can see College Green, many churches and Park Street.
Oxford is one of the finest and most ancient cities. Oxford has had its University since the twelfth century. It contains twenty-eight colleges. Among the most beautiful of the colleges are Magdalen with its lovely chapel tower and Christ Church. Most of the colleges have big and well-ordered gardens.
Many years ago there was a city wall, built in the thirteenth century. Now it is ruined but you can see a portion of this wall running through the garden of a new college.
Oxford University is well known all over the world as one of the oldest universities.
IX. Speak about Great Britain:
a) its geographical position;
b) its political system;
c) its industries.
I. Read the dialogues in pairs and reproduce them.
A. Is England the only name for that country?
B. No it isn’t. It’s also called Great Britain, or simply Britain.
A. So it has two names?
B. There is also a third name – The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or just the United Kingdom.
A. But it sounds more official, doesn’t it?
B. Yes, it’s the official name for the country.
A. Is England a monarchy or a parliamentary republic?
B. Britain is a parliamentary monarchy.
A. How’s that?
B. It’s simple: there’s a King, or a Queen and there’s a parliament enjoying the right to pass laws and elect the government.
A. The seats in Parliament are hereditary, aren’t they?
B. Not exactly. The seats are hereditary in the House of Lords, but as to the members of the House of Commons, they are elected every 5 years.
A. Which chamber is more important and how many members are there in each of them?
B. The House of Commons is surely considered more important. As far as I remember there are 635 MPs in the House of Commons. But the number of peers is considerably greater.
II. At a sitting of the university English-speaking club you discuss:
a) Britain’s economy today;
b) its international role in the modern world;
c) the life and activities of a prominent public figure in Britain.
I. Read and answer.
“If” – problem
If two cats are before a cat,
and two cats are behind a cat,
and a cat is in the middle,
how many cats are there in all?
II. Learn the following proverbs and sayings. Choose the one you like most and use it in a natural context.
1. If ifs and ans were pots and pans.
2. If the sky falls, we shall catch larks.
3. If we can’t as we would, we must do as we can.
4. If wishes were horses, beggars might ride.
5. If you run after two hares, you’ll catch neither.
6. If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.
III. Learn the following by heart.
Had we never loved so kindly,
Had we never loved so blindly,
Never met and never parted,
We’d never been broken – hearted.
IV. Solve the puzzle. Within the grid, find the capitals of the countries listed below:
V. Add one or more letters before the word one to get the word defined.
1. ? + one = something that holds ice cream;
2. ? + one = part of a skeleton;
3. ? + one = no longer here.
4. ? + one = accomplished; finished;
5. ? + one = without anyone else present;
6. ? + one = a musical sound;
7. ? + one = a rock;
8. ? + one = a geographical region or area;
9. ? + one = a chair for a king or queen;
10. ? + one = a windstorm; tornado;
11. ? + one = an instrument for talking to someone far away;
12. ? + one = nobody;
13. ? + one = not any;
14. ? + one = two.
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