LETTER: E.U. benefits U.K. through free trade

Drew Elliot’s “Transatlantic Bureaucracies” editorial on July 12 takes a dim view of the European Union, but in pointing out nuisance regulations that the left is so fond of and mentioning the debate over access to social welfare benefits — both valid complaints — Elliot neglects to give credit to the E.U. for great success in achieving its primary objective — free trade. Island nations are prone to bouts of isolationism, protectionism, and xenophobia, and concerns over unfettered immigration due to E.U. policies are legitimate, but the benefit of free trade seems to get little play in the current debate, which is the most important issue of all.It’s no coincidence that free-trade stalwart Germany has the best economy in Europe. They also run a trade surplus every year, are currently enjoying a budget surplus, and tax cuts may be on the agenda next year. Britain seems to think they should be able to pick and choose which E.U. regulations they like and get the benefit of free trade with none of the obligations. I’m sure the Greeks wish the same thing, but that is just not realistic.Britain has benefited tremendously from E.U. membership, and the Britain of today is a far cry from the stagnant, nationalized economy of the 1970s. Give Maggie Thatcher credit for a lot of that, but her reforms would have had much less impact if not for the E.U’s free trade agenda. The E.U. is a cumbersome bureaucracy, and perhaps a bit of English resolve could help reform that, but even as currently constructed it is well worth putting up with. Britain is at its best when it views the world as its oyster, as it did for 350 years before the second World War. If it wants to be that nation again, it needs to believe in itself, not fear the hound at the door.John R. Fisher 
Winston-Salem