"Britain does not dream of some cozy, isolated existence on the fringes of the European Community. Our destiny is in Europe, as part of the community.That is not to say that our future lies only in Europe, but nor does that of France or Spain or, indeed, of any other member.The community is not an end in itself." --Margeret Thatcher in The Bruges Speech, 1988
The decision about whether Britain chooses to exit the European Union, popularly known as Brexit, or stay put will be decided in a national referendum on June 23.
The consequences of a Brexit could be profound for both Europe and the world. The United Kingdom is the EU's second-largest economy after Germany, has a powerful military and exerts a great deal of influence in global affairs.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pushing Britons to vote to stay in the EU, said in a speech to Parliament on Feb. 22 that if the United Kingdom remains a part of the bloc it could "have the best of both worlds."
Created in 1958 in the aftermath of World War II, the EU was called the European Economic Community until 1993. It is a unique economic and political partnership that brings together 28 European countries.
The United Kingdom has been an EU member since 1973.
The other member countries in are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Republic of Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Under the single currency, the euro, the member nations maintain a single market so that Europeans can draw maximum benefit from it. But nine EU member nations, including the United Kingdom, don't use the euro.
Although Cameron doesn't support a Brexit, he does want the EU to consider a list of demands.
The list includes a restriction on EU migrants in the United Kingdom from claiming work benefits until they have been a resident for four years and also the exclusion of Britain from the EU's founding ambition of an "ever closer union," so as not to be drawn into additional political integration, according to the BBC.
The debt crisis in the eurozone has weighed down many individual economies of the single-currency zone. It is has been argued that if Cyprus, Greece, Ireland and Portugal had their own currencies, they would tackle their issues domestically and not seek financial aid approvals from the so-called Troika, or the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund.
Brexit supporters think that by leaving the EU, the United Kingdom will be more free from bureaucracy and better able to control the nation's sovereignty. Because member nations in the EU are bound by common regulations, the United Kingdom is forced to comply with obligatory EU regulations and bureaucracy.
A Brexit would give the United Kingdom the liberty to trade globally with little restrictions.
In his weekly column in The Daily Telegraph, London Mayor Boris Johnson openly supported a Brexit and said that EU membership is "a slow and invisible process of legal colonization, as the EU infiltrates just about every area of public policy."
Britons have the choice between two competing visions, and how it plays out will have profound implications for the rest of the world.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.