The terms Great Britain and the United Kingdom are often confused, although there is a difference between “GB” and “UK”.
At the time of writing, it is not entirely clear how things will proceed with Brexit. In the end, it may turn out that the UK will never leave the EU. Or should we say “the UK will never leave the EU”?
Although most Dutch people do not even distinguish between England, Scotland and Wales in everyday speech and simply call everything “England”, there is indeed a difference between “Britain” and “Britain”. In general, you can say that Great Britain is a geographical indicator, and the United Kingdom is a political indicator.
Great Britain includes England, Wales and Scotland and is the largest of the British Isles, which includes Ireland, the Hebrides, the Shetland Islands and thousands of other tufts of land in the Atlantic Ocean. The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland – and the last three have regional governments. This is the result of the way those countries came together through the centuries and partly disintegrated again.
It began in 927, when the Anglo-Saxon ruler Athelstan formed the Kingdom of England from kingdoms such as Wessex and Northumbria. Wales, occupied by the English as early as the thirteenth century, was merged with England in 1536 by Henry VIII. In 1707 the English did the same with Scotland, where they had ruled since 1650. Thus the Kingdom of Great Britain was born. Then in 1801 came the Act of Union, which led to the merging of the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland (which was actually privately owned by English monarchs) to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
But an “exit” occurred between 1916 and 1922: the Irish got rid of the yoke of the British and established the Republic of Ireland. Only London could hold Northern Ireland. In short, if something left the EU, it wouldn’t be Britain, not even the UK. Officially, we should talk about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
You can find this question on KIJK 2/2019.
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Text: Leo Pollack
BUILD: CC BY 2.0
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