But many Britons — like citizens elsewhere in the EU — see the union as a faceless beast imposing rules and spending on needless things and threatening sovereignty.
Britain’s relations with Europe have been strained since the end of World War II. It did not join the European Steel and Coal Community, the forebear of what would later become the European Union, in 1951.
Britain later realized there were benefits accruing from joining up with some of its wartime friends and foes, and joined the evolving European bloc in the 1970s. It has stood against many efforts to forge closer ties, notably the creation of the euro, but was at the forefront of the drive to create a single market.
Don Melvin in Brussels and Martin Benedyk in Davos, Switzerland, contributed to this report.