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How does the UK government work ?

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How does the UK government work ?

The United Kingdom is run by a monarchy and a government. Can the UK be run by the kingdom and the government at the same time ?

The British Monarchy is the oldest form of government in the United Kingdom. However, the Sovereign is the Head of the State, Queen Elisabeth II, since 1952. She has no longer a political or an executive role. This role is attributed to the Prime Minister, who leads the British government. But, how does the United Kingdom government work ?

The role of the Monarchy

Queen Elisabeth II is the monarch of 15 countries of the Commonwealth, old colonies of  the British Empire. According to the Britannica, a monarchy is a :

« political system based upon the undivided  sovereignty or rule of a single person ».

The supreme authority rests with the monarch, who functions as the Head of the state and who achieves his or her position through heredity. But, time has reduced the power of the Monarchy and today the British Monarchy is working with a constitutional one.

The Queen Elisabeth II has no longer the ability to create and pass any legislation, only the elected Parliament can do it. As the Head of the State, the Monarch holds small role as the « Head of the Nation », a symbolic and a ceremonial role. The Sovereign has to remain neutral and does not vote or stand for any election. Her duties are to open each new sessions of the British Parliament, to grant Royal Assent to legislation, and to approve Orders and Proclamations through the Privy Council.

The Crown and the Prime Minister has a special relationship. The Queen Elisabeth II can retain the right to appoint and also can meet with him or her on a regular basis. The monarch gives a weekly audience to the Prime Minister. During this moment, she has the right and duty to discuss current government matters. The Queen’s powers do not only take a specific role in the UK Parliament, based in London, but also formal roles with the devolved assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


The Parliament, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet

The Parliament is the highest legislative authority in the UK, its functions involve shaping laws to create debates and to make decisions on big issues of the day. The Parliament is composed with two Houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords, plus the Crown.

The Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, and Minister for the Union (the full title of the PM), is the leader of Her Majesty’s Government. Boris Johnson has been elected since July 2019, as the responsible for all policies and decisions. He is the principal government figure in the House of Common. His duties consist of supervising the operation of the Civil Service, the practical and administrative work of the government, and government agencies and to set the members of the government. As the Minister for the Union, Boris Johnson has to guaranty that all government is acting on behalf of the entire United Kingdom : England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the Wales.

The British Cabinet is the central body which regulates policy and coordinates activities of governmental departments. Chaired by the Prime Minister, the Cabinet is composed with most of the ministerial heads of departments, and some additional members. Over peace time it is held by 22 members, but during the two wars the size of the Cabinet was reduced to take decisions faster. Every week, during parliaments, all members of the Cabinet, who can be Secretaries of State from all departments but also some other ministers, discuss the most important issues for the government.

paul silvan

Britain without a monarchy ?

For centuries, there have been debates about keeping or abolishing the monarchy. In modern society, some movements call for the end of the monarchy since it has no real power and since any political figure can replace its symbolic functions, according to the Law Teacher.

« The monarchy is a broken institution. A head of state that’s chosen by us could really represent our hopes and aspirations – and help us keep politicians in check. » - The Republics

The British Royal family is the most expensive monarchy in the world, (the revenue of the royal family was estimated to be $107 million in 2020. Every British citizen paid $1.60 to the royal family this year.) But abolishing the monarchy will not be an easy challenge, and it might take years to actually make this change happening.

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