Although many threats have become apparent to UK businesses there have also been many opportunities. A wider market is accessible for both producers and consumers. There are now for example, over 500 million consumers in the EU following the enlargement in May 2004. The new larger market must also have benefited internet shoppers, as people will trust EU countries rather than wanting to buy products from the Far East for example, and products purchased from some EU countries are likely to be much cheaper in price. A reason for the lower prices could also be due to an increase in competition. The increase has meant that firms are becoming more efficient and using production methods that allow their costs to be pushed down on certain goods, for example the liberalization of air travel has contributed to the introduction of ‘no frills’ airlines. Greater competition also means consumers have a wider choice from a range of products, rather than being limited to domestic goods and services. Consumer protection has increased as EU directive apply across the Single Market, for example the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive makes it easier to make a claim following an accident occurring in another EU country. Workers are more mobile and can work with the same rights in other Member States. In theory this should lead to disparity in wages across member states and more opportunities for people within the EU to locate their jobs.
However threats have also been introduced to as the Single European Market has come into effect. Some countries are still protectionist and not implementing in full new single market rules. France and Italy are the worst offenders. For example, Italy has yet to abolish a set of technical rules, which restrict how trailers may be attached to tractors - this has blocked the opportunity for other European trailer manufacturers to enter the market. There are fears of possible cultural differences. For example, if Muslim states join would they be able to adjust their approach to women to meet the standards set by the EU? Should they have to? The opportunities that exist for criminal elements to exploit the single market could cause de-stabilising effects. The disparity between member states could lead to further social and economic problems, particularly in countries that used to be part of the former Soviet bloc where it is acknowledged that they are a long way behind the economic development of existing members. The experience faced by Germany when it united West Germany with the former 'communist' East Germany is a good example of the potential problems that could arise.