Premier League matches, a Greek TV decoder and a Portsmouth pub. It was the case Karen Murphy took to the European Court of Justice where she won a partial victory in her fight to cut the cost of screening football in her bar.

Premier League matches, a Greek TV decoder and a Portsmouth pub. It was the case Karen Murphy took to the European Court of Justice where she won a partial victory in her fight to cut the cost of screening football in her bar. But it was also a real-life illustration of how far the European single market still has to go to deliver the benefits long-promised to individuals and businesses.

We should have an EU genuinely free from barriers to trade and investment and I applaud the commission’s continued efforts to achieve that but ‘territorial supply constraints’ (much like the issue in the satellite TV case) are not the only obstacle.

Public performance rights aside, you should be able to buy your match coverage from a provider in whichever EU nation offers you the best deal.

By the same principle, multinational manufacturers of branded goods shouldn’t normally be able to segment the European market. If a retailer can source something like a particular camera more cheaply in say Spain, it’s not right to restrict them to buying it only through the maker’s chosen supplier in the UK. The commission agrees this is anti-competitive but it’s still happening.

This weekend ministers attend the EU’s Competitiveness Council. Vince Cable will be there for us. They’ll be considering the ‘Internal Market Scorecard’. That’s the commission’s assessment of how effectively and completely internal market legislation has been implemented and how well member states are meeting their obligations.

At this stage of the game, I’d say there are plenty of fouls and not enough penalties.

The UK demonstrates the economic and customer benefits that come from a genuinely open market. But too many other EU countries just don’t get the connection.

Discriminatory legislation is preventing UK retailers opening stores in other EU countries and denying customers in those countries the benefits a free and competitive market has brought here.

Restrictive rules include: you can’t own more than one pharmacy outlet in Greece.

In Belgium, retailers aren’t allowed to offer discounts of more than 33%. Hungary has announced a e110m “crisis tax” which just happens to fall mainly on large, foreign-owned retailers.

And the need to comply with 27 different consumer rights regimes is stopping ecommerce developing as it could. The commission’s proposing simplification, giving retailers the option of selling under a single EU-wide set of rules. Good news for UK retailers that have grown UK online retailing further than anyone else in Europe.

Let’s have more of this kind of progress.

It shouldn’t feel like Europe deals us the disadvantages of a costly regulation machine without the benefits of proper access to 500 million customers.

I doubt those big-screen football fans mind but I’d like to see a level playing field.

  • Stephen Robertson, Director-General, British retail Consortium