Now the euro is launched, Brussels doesn't care what the British think about it
ONCE upon a time a broadside on the euro by the Sun might have provoked fastidious distaste in Brussels. Wednesday's front-page headline failed to cause a ripple, either on the top floors of the European Commission, or around the capitals.

Of course, there is curiosity behind the scenes to see whether Tony Blair decides to tackle Rupert Murdoch head on or to allow his apparent warming on EMU to cool down as the going gets tougher.

Mr Blair's warm words on monetary union at the Cardiff summit were noted with quiet satisfaction on the continent, and most finance ministers - except the French, who could not resist a sneer - thought it significant that Gordon Brown insisted on showing up, uninvited, for the first meeting of Euro XI, the new exclusive ministerial club to coordinate economic policy for participating states.

But the fact remains that most of Britain's EU partners have given up trying to find every nuance in every word Tony Blair utters in an effort to second-guess how and when he will come off the fence on EMU. The reality, which the British government may not have assimilated yet, is that the significance of its attitude to EMU has faded like an old copy of the Sun.

"A lot of people were worried that an explosive situation in the UK in the run-up to the May decisions on the euro could spill over. But that did not happen," said one senior EU official. "The decisions have been taken so what happens on the British political landscape now matters a lot less."

A diplomat from a leading "in" country said: "We are observing with some bemusement how the internal debate will shape up in the UK. But in the meantime the train moves on."

The calmness of the market reaction to the launch of the euro last month and the fact that European economies are moving out of recession while Britain's is heading in the other direction mean other governments can afford to be smug. German newspapers reported the Sun's attack on Mr Blair with a sanguine detachment."That Murdoch is against the euro and Blair when it comes down to it is in favour, has been clear for some time," the Suddeutsche Zeitung said. "Sometimes the simplest explanations are the most accurate: the circulation of the Sun is sinking and the new editor is keen to strike a quick success."

In any case EU leaders are determined to keep their noses out of the British debate. "We will stand back and see how Tony tackles his problems," said one senior aide. But the relaxed view in political and diplomatic circles is that Mr Blair will be left with no option but to take Britain in eventually. European leaders also know that the longer he leaves it, the harder Mr Blair will find it to be taken seriously as a full player in the European or indeed the transatlantic game.