The most important thing to happen in the past four days is that nothing happened. A new currency was introduced simultaneously in 12 countries with 300 million inhabitants – and nothing went wrong. No German nationalists picketed government buildings to protest at the loss of the mark. No confused old ladies complained of being cheated at the charcuterie by unscrupulous shopkeepers. There was not even any evidence of retailers consistently rounding up rather than rounding down on conversion. The sky did not fall, plagues did not descend, the edifice of European civilisation was not struck down for its federalist hubris.
Anyone with little to do over the New Year break, including its ice-bound and rail-struck extension into the rest of the week, will have observed that the television news coverage of the essentially untelevisable was not just unanalytical but crushingly dull. "Our problem," said the lady at the European Central Bank's news centre, "is that there are no problems, and so there is no news".
Even Britain's europhobic press, renowned for its ability to construct stories based on facts which fit its prejudices, has lost the will to mislead. The worst it has come up with is the fact that Belgian euro coins, if spun (but not if tossed), are biased to heads; and a forged euro note has been found in Germany. That is hardly the propaganda which will turn a referendum.
The notes and coins of the single European currency have only been circulating since Tuesday, but it is already clear that the transition is going remarkably smoothly. The old currencies of the 12 will not be withdrawn until the end of February, on the accelerated timetable which replaced the original intention to phase in the euro over six months, but it feels as if they have already gone. Many felt a twinge of sadness, nostalgia or loss, yet the mood in the eurozone seems to have been one of acceptance, of wanting, pragmatically, to get on with it.
The only other story the europhobes could come up with this week were some comments made as long ago as November by Gus O'Donnell, the Treasury civil servant in charge of euro policy, to the effect that the decision to adopt the euro was ultimately a political rather than an economic one. Well, there is a surprise. And if Mr O'Donnell did say that it would be impossible for the Treasury to declare that the economic case for adopting the euro, according to its five tests, was "clear and unambiguous", in the Government's phrase, he was again only stating the obvious.
Certainly, the adoption of the euro presents economic risks, not all of which can be eliminated by the – cloudy and ambiguous – concept of convergence which lies at the heart of Gordon Brown's five tests. In particular, it will not be possible to ease the strains of regional boom or bust by letting the exchange rate take the strain.
For that reason, both Mr O'Donnell and Charles Clarke, the chairman of the Labour Party, are quite right to say that the economic arguments can never be wholly decisive and that the decision is therefore primarily one about Britain's place at the heart of the European Union.
As our Paris correspondent argues (right), pro-Europeans have no interest in pushing Tony Blair into a referendum before the British people are more comfortable with a European identity alongside their British – or English, Scottish, Welsh or Other – one. But public opinion towards the euro will not change unless it is pushed, and the other thing that has not happened this week is that the Prime Minister has failed yet again to come out of his corner. He needs to make the case, not just that it is in Britain's long-term economic interest to adopt the euro, but that it will promote the country from the second tier of European nations to the first.
"Familiarity breeds consent" is an unreliable basis for Mr Blair's policy – although the significance of this week is partly that it has dispelled the negative, the Eurosceptic prediction that the launch of the currency would be a disaster. Mr Blair no longer faces the fear of the unknown. He can now afford to have the courage of his convictions.Reuse content