Brexit campaigner Irwin Armstrong says the NI protocol is a “win, win” for his medical testing firm.

One of Northern Ireland’s most prominent Brexit advocates said the NI protocol provides opportunities for his own business and other manufacturers.

However, Irwin Armstrong, founder of the company and chief executive of CIGA Healthcare in Ballymena, said problems with some aspects of the protocol for companies shipping goods from the UK to Northern Ireland should be resolved by a joint effort between the EU and the UK.

And he predicted that the UK law to repeal parts of the protocol that kept NI in the EU single market for goods despite Brexit would never be passed.

CIGA Healthcare announced that it has won over $5 million worth of contracts in new markets including Turkey and Egypt for its home diagnostic devices following the launch of a new marketing strategy.

The business manufactures blood monitors, pregnancy tests, glucose monitors, and other personal medical equipment under its Suresign brand.

The firm, which currently exports its products to 72 countries, has also received the CE certificate for its fertility products, which means that they comply with the pan-European requirements adopted in other international markets.

Although many of his export deals were not affected by the protocol, Mr. Armstrong said he also recently secured a contract with “the largest pharmaceutical wholesaler in Europe” that amounted to an agreement.

“They called us and said ‘you can ship all over the UK and all over Europe without any paperwork’ and the NI protocol was the start of that conversation.”

He said the growth was a sign of confidence in the sector despite many challenges. “Trading conditions are particularly volatile but our marketing efforts in the domestic Irish and UK retail markets and internationally are paying off.”

The entrepreneur, former vice president and chairman of the Northern Ireland Conservative Party, was the only business leader in Northern Ireland to publicly advocate leaving the EU in the 2016 referendum.

As the sixth anniversary of the exit vote on June 23, 2016, approaches, Mr Armstrong said Northern Ireland is enjoying the benefits of the protocol but could also take advantage of opportunities under free trade agreements being negotiated by the UK. Many of these deals have been rolled over by the UK based on agreements it has entered into as a member of the EU.

He urged trade union politicians to come to terms with the protocol and “seize” the business opportunities it opens up.

Mr Armstrong said: “It seems that all the manufacturing companies in Northern Ireland are busy and some of them are supplying southern Ireland due to the deviation from the UK mainland.

“I think it’s great. It’s a win-win situation. We’re not in the EU, but we can trade directly with him with all the benefits of being in the EU, so what else do you need?”

He said he did not agree with the post-Brexit restrictions on immigration. “I believe that if you answer yes to three questions – do you speak English, do you have a job and do you have a clean record – then you should be let in.”

Although the NI Protocol had trade advantages, he argued that this was the result of EU “intransigence”.

“There were other decisions they just didn’t want to look at. And we are still forced to check goods entering Northern Ireland, even if they are not going anywhere but Northern Ireland.”

Mr. Armstrong said he was skeptical about the ability of the NI protocol bill to solve problems with the protocol. The bill was introduced in the House of Commons last week, but no second reading of the bill is scheduled as the government wants the DUP to go back to Stormont first.

“Legislation won’t be passed within a year if it ever does, but we need a decision today, not a year from now… They need to sit down and figure it out and forget about the laws going through parliament.”

He denounced the criticism of NI’s COO Stephen Kelly after he spoke about the advantages and disadvantages of the NI protocol for manufacturers. Mr Kelly said he received death threats and calls from MPs after he spoke about the producers’ experience.

“I’m shocked that people started attacking Stephen Kelly… he represents all of us.”