Watch out, Tony - the left fears the euro, too

The most dangerous man in Britain? The question is usually reserved for paedophiles

the sun has declared one of its wars, this time on Tony Blair's European policy. "Is THIS the most dangerous man in Britain?" demanded yesterday's front page. The question is more usually reserved for paedophiles or axe-murderers and sat oddly beside a picture of Mr Blair looking coolly handsome and thoroughly harmless.

Tabloid excitability aside, The Sun is right to have noticed that the Labour leadership's cautiously favourable approach to EMU has been surreptitiously replaced by a tone of relentless optimism. It is also right to make a fuss about it.

The signs are that policy has changed from waiting till EMU was up and running before assessing whether Britain should take part. Such was the promise of Gordon Brown's statement to the House on the matter last year.

Now, however, we have the purposeful language of advocacy, intended to prepare the public for early entry. Last week Mr Blair hinted strongly in Strasbourg that he favoured unconditional entry: "We can remain independent of the euro. The question is whether it is in our best interest to do so... The euro will generate stability... I am optimistic." This sounded suspiciously like the starting bell for a concerted campaign to erode public reservations.

But how can the Prime Minister possibly know whether the euro will generate stability? It may well have the opposite effect, particularly given the as yet unknown impact of the Asian crisis on European economies. EMU is a strongly deflationary project, requiring adherence to a single, invariable interest rate to succeed. This combination is not what most sober calculators would call grounds for optimism.

Out of the 20 Sun tests of the "Perils of the Single Currency", all but three - the ones invoking mawkish nationalism and exaggerated accounts of France and Germany's economic weakness - were reasonable criticisms of the project and its suitability for Britain.

From interest rate inflexibility to convergence differences between Britain and Europe, the dislocation between the low-tax strategy adopted by Labour to the far higher averages in continental Europe; from the democratic deficit of unelected bank chiefs running national economies to governments left without the options for change if voters protest - all these arguments should be ruthlessly tested before Britain commits itself to EMU.

The Tories' extended blood-letting over Europe has persuaded new Labour to jam the lid on debate. Those on the centre-left who fear that European leaders took a wrong turn at Maastricht can easily be branded as fearfully clinging to the paraphernalia of island pride.

It is not like that at all. The "European ideal" which Mr Blair quite rightly believes to be a force for good on a continent that has sacrificed so much to war is ill-served by the precarious project of EMU. The really worthwhile historical mission - enlargement of the Union and the reform of its institutions, has been delayed by the concentration on the creation of a currency elite.

EMU-philes have been fortunate in their enemies. Euroscepticism allowed itself to be defined by left-wing warhorses such as Tony Benn and the small-minded, flag-waving xenophobes of the Conservative Right. In the latter category I included some clever but miscalculating politicians such as John Redwood who are too cultivated to be anti-foreigner themselves, use the imagery of parochial nationalism to make their arguments more accessible.

That is why I never describe myself as a Eurosceptic. I once went to a meeting of the Anti-Maastricht Alliance and found myself in a room full of Sid and Doris Bonkers. The term "Eurosceptic" has now lost its root meaning of "those distrustful of a single currency/integrationist project" and become a neologism for Conservative hyper-patriots or old Labour high spenders.

But centre-left EMU-Sceptics - or Euro-thoughtfuls - are a different breed. I believe there are quite a lot of us out there - and not a few in new Labour who are not so much convinced EMU-supporters as scared to be seen to be unconvinced by anything the leadership proposes.

Euro-thoughtfuls are not theological, unconditional Eurosceptics. We do not warm to the strident cry of "Save the pound" under which the alliance against the euro is currently running. It is too reminiscent of the sort of thing people say when they are shaking their walking-stick at you. It is not the pound as a totemic object of Britishness that we are arguing about here. It is the single currency.

If, well into the next century, the project turns out to have been a runaway success and Europe is blooming in freedom, prosperity and goodwill, full of satisfied and employed electorates, I shall eat my worries and say I was wrong. Until then, I reserve the right to doubt.

It is the centre-left's duty to be sceptical about everything - to look beyond the blinkered certainties of ideology. But monetary union is an ideological project. It was intended by the French to create a supranational political entity to constrain Germany. Britain will certainly have less influence outside: but it will have greater freedom of manoeuvre - perhaps a more useful trait in a highly competitive world.

EMU's dirty little secret is that a lot of things will have to happen afterwards which its proponents hide from us today. Without harmonisation of tax, pensions and eventually welfare provision, it cannot be sustained. We have not yet had an open debate about the consequences of such a major shift in the way we are governed and the consequences for the accountability of those we vote into power.

Mr Blair says that he does want a Europe which is inward-looking, protectionist and mired in bureaucracy. I believe him. But what does he see in the present EU that leads him to conclude that the Union is prepared to reform itself?

The language of inevitability and momentum is misleading. There is always a way back. Mr Blair is a flexible and responsive politician. He has often reconsidered earlier positions and been applauded for so doing. He should apply the same stringency to his European policy and hold Britain from taking a part in the experimental theatre of EMU until such a time as there is sound evidence that the most potent fears were unfounded.

He should do so not because The Sun says so, but because it is the act of a truly outstanding statesman to resist the follies of his contemporaries.

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
    Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

    Caught in the web of legal imperialism

    The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
    Bruce Robinson: Creator of Withnail and I on his new book about Jack the Ripper

    'Jack the Ripper has accrued a heroic aura. But I'm going after the bastard'

    The deaths of London prostitutes are commonly pinned on a toff in a top hat. But Bruce Robinson, creator of Withnail and I, has a new theory about the killer's identity
    Fifa presidential election: What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    What is the best way to see off Sepp Blatter and end this farce?
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards