Expat Guide

UK Government

The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, and includes the countries of Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. The full official name is: United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The constitution is unwritten, and the laws consist of partly statutes, partly common law and practice. For more detailed information and statistics, check the CIA World Fact Book.

The Monarchy

The Queen, Elizabeth II, is the head of state. “As well as carrying out significant constitutional functions, The Queen also acts as a focus for national unity, presiding at ceremonial occasions, visiting local communities and representing Britain around the world. The Queen is also Head of the Commonwealth. During her reign she has visited all the Commonwealth countries, going on ‘walkabouts’ to gain direct contact with people from all walks of life throughout the world.”

The Commonwealth

“The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 sovereign states, which work together to achieve international goals. Spread over every continent and ocean, the Commonwealth’s 1.7 billion people make up 30% of the world’s population. Most of the Commonwealth countries are former parts of the British Empire.

Governing Bodies

The Prime Minister is head of government, an elected official, leader of the elected party. He lives at Number 10 Downing Street, aka Number 10. The Cabinet of Ministers is appointed by the PM. Legistlative elections determine the political party of majority vote and the leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister. (They do not vote for individuals for positions, but for one party across all levels. They do not have a set election date as the USA does.)

Parliament is comprised of House of Lords (consists of approximately 500 life peers, 92 hereditary peers and 26 clergy) and House of Commons (659 seats; Members of Parliament, aka MPs are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms unless the House is dissolved earlier.)

Of the Judicial Branch, House of Lords (highest court of appeal; several Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are appointed by the monarch for life); Supreme Courts of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland (comprising the Courts of Appeal, the High Courts of Justice, and the Crown Courts); Scotland’s Court of Session and Court of the Justiciary.


United Kingdom of Great Britain - Blue field with the red cross of Saint George (patron saint of England) edged in white superimposed on the diagonal red cross of Saint Patrick (patron saint of Ireland), which is superimposed on the diagonal white cross of Saint Andrew (patron saint of Scotland); properly known as the Union Flag, but commonly called the Union Jack; the design and colors (especially the Blue Ensign) have been the basis for a number of other flags including other Commonwealth countries and their constituent states or provinces, as well as British overseas territories.

Union Flag



England - The flag of England is also known as St. George's Cross

Scotland - The flag of Scotland is also known as St. Andrew's Cross and the Saltire

Wales - The flag of Wales is also known as Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon)


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