In my experience as an exporter there is no EU single market

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Everyone will be by now completely disillusioned with the ever more desperate claims of the opposing referendum camps.

Whatever the result, there will be no dragons breathing fire coming down the river Lagan, the NHS will not collapse under the weight of immigrants, world war three will not happen, there will be no iron curtain on the border.

Irwin Armstrong, Founder & CEO CIGA Healthcare Ltd

Irwin Armstrong, Founder & CEO CIGA Healthcare Ltd

The UK will succeed no matter what the result is on the 23rd June, so the question we all must address is what will be better for future generations. Will we prosper more inside the EU or as an independent country?

From my experience of the EU single market it is protectionist and anticompetitive. We supply healthcare medical tests for home use such as pregnancy, cholesterol, diabetes, temperature and blood pressure. In the UK they are freely on sale in any retail outlet whereas each country across the EU they have their own interpretation of the rules and therefore in many countries they can only be bought in pharmacies or para-pharmacies.

This is to help sustain the number of pharmacies for example in the France there are 20,000 pharmacies compared to 10,000 in the UK and in addition ownership is limited to one or two outlets so effectively banning chains from entering the market. This lack of competitiveness was brought to the European Court who ruled it was legal on the grounds of public health, even though the UK and Ireland operate quite happily without the restrictions. Since we are a major supplier to the UK retail chains this means that we are effectively excluded from much of the EU mainland markets.

This contrasts with the Commonwealth and other countries like the US and Canada who have had a long relationship with the UK and where there is a similar legal background and in addition English is widely spoken. In the US once a product is certified it can be sold in all 50 states with no further intervention and in other Commonwealth countries they generally have free sale and zero tariffs.

I have also heard the experiences of other companies in the food and pharmaceutical sectors where they have met similar restrictions on their ability to operate freely within the EU.

So when you hear about the necessity of being in the single market do not believe that it is a trade fee zone with no restrictions it is far from that. The EU only represents about 15% of the world GDP and I firmly believe that while we will continue to trade with the EU having the ability to forge independent relationships with the other 85% of world GDP will be the best longer term option.