ELI5, Can someone, just, explain how the UK works? How are England, Scotland, Wales, etc. all related?



Pretty much anywhere you look, Wales and Scotland are listed as independent countries, except not really. Even the Isle of Man, which isn’t a part of the UK (somehow) reports to England in some capacity. And then there’s Northern Ireland; I don’t know what their deal is. Every google search just makes me more confused, so is there some Brit who can enlighten me?

In: Other

The nations in the UK – England and Scotland are “constituent countries”, Wales is a principality and Northern Ireland is a province – are not listed as sovereign states in international law, &c. but Heaven help you if you suggest to people from these nations that they are not separate nations!

(Most) British people have been accustomed to identifying by their nation *and* the UK political union at the same time without contradiction.

Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories are not part of the UK but still take foreign- and defence-policy orders from the UK government. (The Isle of Man is a crown dependency.)


Basically we are a Union between Scotland and England and Wales and Northern Ireland is what remains of the occupation of Ireland.

No one really likes each other but no one really Crazily dislikes each other, I mean yeah especially in Northern Ireland the population that want to go with Ireland and the population that want to stay British hate each other.

No one really likes the Irish either but they don’t really like Brits either.

We are all ruled but a little lady with a magic funny hat who was born into a family that are somehow better than us and we’re re told we all really like but most of us couldn’t give a flying fuck about her or her weird family.

We all have devolved parliaments who can make some laws in our respective countries but not the really important ones. Only England gets to make those.

Frankly half us don’t want to be in a union and the other half do.

And we all kid on were the greatest country that ever lived because we had a huge empire that never once did a fucking single thing wrong, not even once. An America by comparison is a shit hole 3rd world country where people think their fucking amazing because they can afford a house sized car but not even a cup of water at a hospital and our police hardly ever kill the black guys.

Also for some reason we really dislike the French, the Germans, the Italians and the EU.
And even people here don’t have a fucking clue about the islands other than they’re kinda ours but people there don’t pay tax and all the bookies are based there.

I hope this has in some way helped

Basically, they were historically separate countries. Then England conquered Wales (but still called it Wales) and the Scottish king inherited the English throne. Then they conquered Ireland, then they lost all but the northern part of Ireland. And through they all have the same monarch, and through they all share the same Parliament, they continue to be thought of as separate countries to this day.

It’s kind of like how the United States are still called “states” even though the rest of the world (and a lot of people here) treats us as a single state.

Basically, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are kinda like states in the USA. Various cultural and historical differences, but all part of the UK. A Texan is also an American for example the same as a Scot is also British.

The Isle of Man and the other crown dependencies are sort of equivalent to Guam or Puerto Rico. The people there are also British, but they don’t have the same political status for things like elections.

As for how it works, as a Brit I’m not sure that it does lol

CGP Grey did an amazing video on just this on YouTube. Very simple and easy to understand. To put it simply, the UK is a country made up of countries.

Great Britain itself is the landmass.
There’s also the island of Ireland which makes up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (commonly known as the U.K.)

The nearby Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey are not part of the UK, but are known as Crown Dependencies where the British Government is responsible for defence and international representation.

Each of the 3 minority Nations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) has a devolved parliament, which have certain powers they can exercise, generally related to Health Care, Road Laws etc. There is also Westminster Parliament which is the parliament of Great Britain and is made up of a degree of representation from each of the 4 countries that make up the U.K.

Westminster has the overall say in the constitution of the United Kingdom. In 2014, Westminster temporarily ceded power to the Scottish government to hold a referendum asking the people of Scotland if they wanted to be an independent country. They voted to remain in the U.K.

Wales and Northern Island were previously conquered by England. Scotland became part of the union when the king of Scotland inherited the English throne and formed the union. The monarchy ‘rules’ over the whole of the U.K. (although this is now largely symbolic with the powers having been transferred to the elected government).


It’s complicated. There’s a lot of history and outdated terminology:

So to start with, you have the **United Kingdom** Which is a single, sovereign state. This is why the United Kingdom has a seat at the United Nations, but the individual countries that make up the United Kingdom don’t.

The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland… and the easiest way to think of this is that it works a lot like the United States of America. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are basically the ‘States’ of the United Kingdom. They each have a certain amount of autonomy, self-govern local issues, but are all ultimately answerable to Parliament in London the same way that individual US States self-govern but are ultimately answerable to the Federal Government.

So why do we call them countries and not states? Well, because in the past they were completely separate, autonomous countries. The word ‘country’ can refer to a geographical area as well as a political entity, so the terminology just stuck…especially as each country, despite being part of the same political entity, each kept its own national identity in a cultural sense.

The other names are basically historical.

First you had the **Kingdom of England.**

England then Joined with Wales to become the **Kingdom of England and Wales.**

Then the Kingdom of England and Wales joined with Scotland to become **The Kingdom of Great Britain.**

(Why ‘Great Britain’? Well, ‘Britain’ comes from the Roman word ‘Britannia’, the Roman name for the actual mainland of Britain… and why ‘Great’ was added is up for debate. Some people think it was to differentiate from the very similar sounding French neighbour Brittany, and others think it was due to the ego for King James I…who wanted to make it clear he was King of *all* of Britain and not ‘Roman Britain’ which only consisted of England and Wales.)

Then, in 1801, Ireland joined the Union, forming the **United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland**

Finally, in 1922, The Republic of Ireland (southern Ireland) withdrew from the Union, which gave us **The United Kingdom of Great Britain** which is the same UK that exists today.

So what about the Isle of Mann, Guernsey and Jersey?

These make up part of the British Isles (of which Great Britain is the biggest). They’re not part of the UK, but are what’s known as ‘Crown Dependencies’…and this is where things get a bit wacky.

Legally they are ‘Territories for which the United Kingdom is responsible’. Basically, they’re self-governing, but aren’t Sovereign States, they’re ‘Possessions of the Crown’, which means they’re technically ruled by the Queen, not the British Government…. but as the Monarchy has no real power and is basically a figurehead (The Monarchy is now little more than a tourist attraction)…they’re technically independent states.