The Danish vote is a warning to Mr Blair to come out fighting - now

Share

There is an unconvincing insouciance about the response of the British and Swedish governments to the Danish referendum. "It makes no difference to us," is the gist of the Foreign Secretary's argument. This is not the correct posture to adopt towards the majesty of democracy in action. What is more, the claim that referendums in other member states are a purely internal affair for foreigners hardly pays the necessary tribute to the ideal of a people's Europe.

There is an unconvincing insouciance about the response of the British and Swedish governments to the Danish referendum. "It makes no difference to us," is the gist of the Foreign Secretary's argument. This is not the correct posture to adopt towards the majesty of democracy in action. What is more, the claim that referendums in other member states are a purely internal affair for foreigners hardly pays the necessary tribute to the ideal of a people's Europe.

No, any clear-eyed supporter of Britain's membership of the euro must recognise that the Danish vote is a setback to the chances of this country making the right choice about its future, and learn the lessons of the Danish people's decision.

The first lesson is that referendums cannot be won simply by exhortation from the great, the good and the thoughtful. The "Yes" vote in Denmark was supported by the prime minister, all but one of the main political parties, all the main newspapers and most business and trades union leaders. Yet that overwhelming civic consensus could not persuade a population that is prosperous and fiercely independence-minded, rather than nationalist - except for a strong tinge of anti-German sentiment.

Some aspects of the Danish national outlook do not apply to Britain. Denmark is a small country which is proud of its progressive social organisation, a political-cultural identity it fears will be eroded in a closer union with a German-dominated EU. British hostility to the euro is not based so much on the fear of being swallowed up by larger nations as on the loss of political control to a federation. The fact that we are not worried, as the Danes are, about Germans buying holiday homes on our coasts means that the argument for our joining can at least be conducted on the basis of rough equality with the French and the Germans. The Danes may not mind being in the slow lane of a two-speed EU, but that should not be acceptable to us.

However, when Britain's moment of decision comes, it will be no use Tony Blair relying on the massed endorsement of the CBI, TUC and the great and good retired statesmen. The debate will be differently shaped here in any case, not least because the press will be divided in favour of those who say "No" because of the prejudice of two North American proprietors.

All of which simply underlines not only the importance of making the pro-euro case in terms of hard economic interest, but also the feebleness of the efforts so far of the Government, which (one or two ministers honourably excepted) seems to believe that it can avoid fighting openly for a British "Yes" vote until after the election.

Ultimately, the argument which the nay-sayers find hardest to counter is that Britain will be more prosperous, and its prosperity will be more secure, if it joins the monetary union. As a great trading nation, we will gain secure and predictable access to the huge EU market. As the hub of an English-speaking global network, our competitive advantage as the location for inward investment will be outstanding.

These are not difficult economic arguments, but they need to be pressed with confidence - and without dishonest scare stories about the number of jobs supposedly dependent on a "Yes" vote. Meanwhile, the euro-sceptic complaint about loss of national sovereignty needs to be exposed for what it is: a vote of no confidence in Britain's ability to argue its corner in the councils of Europe.

The Danes have their own reasons, as a small nation, for worrying about the influence they wield in the European Union. Britain should have no such fears.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Network Infrastructure Technical Lead - up to £45k DOE - Surrey

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

An oil rig in the North Sea  

The Scottish people deserve the truth about North Sea oil and gas

Oliver Courtney
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week