Whatever the Danish people decide, the euro is here to stay

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Whatever the result of the referendum on the euro being held on Thursday in Denmark - and the signs are that it will be close - there will be lessons to be drawn from the contest on this side of the North Sea.

Whatever the result of the referendum on the euro being held on Thursday in Denmark - and the signs are that it will be close - there will be lessons to be drawn from the contest on this side of the North Sea.

The first is to recognise the sheer emotionalism used by the anti-Europeans. The mystical appeal to a sense of nation, race, even tribe, may be risible but it can be potent. Unless dealt with, it can create an atmosphere in which to be pro-European is portrayed as to be in some sense unpatriotic. We have been given a foretaste of that in the Conservative Party's recent policy document "Believing in Britain". The subliminal message is that only a non-patriot would be prepared to tolerate closer British integration with Europe, especially by means of the single currency. The technique can, it must be admitted, be deployed more easily in nations with a long history and a venerable democratic tradition, or at least those that perceive themselves to be so. When Europhobes talk about "sovereignty" and "losing control of our destiny" and a European superstate, they create a bogey that simply does not exist.

True, the European institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg could - and should - be made much more democratically accountable. They can interfere too much, just as our own ministries and quangos can abuse their power. There has always been a strong case for reforming the Common Agricultural Policy. And all agree that the EU will need some radical reforms to cope with new members such as Poland and Estonia as they become ready for membership in the next few years.

But none of that equates to a European superstate that is out of control. Nor does it take long to realise that, as Geoffrey Howe famously put it, sovereignty is not like virginity - you either have it or you do not. It is possible to pool sovereignty, as we do in Nato and in the United Nations.

We may pool sovereignty more in Europe, but how else to deal with, for example, environmental issues that respect no borders, or trade and economic matters that can be resolved for the good of all only if we limit the use of the veto?

Yes, we would lose the pound. But the ability of British governments to exercise any real control over its value has long existed more in theory than in practice. And we would gain a place, currently denied us, at the table when decisions about European interest rates and economic policy - matters crucial to the livelihood of every British citizen - were discussed. A voice for the British people in those meetings would surely be a democratic advance and an enhancement of sovereignty, rather than the reverse.

The Danish result should not distract us from those arguments. The claim made by Pia Kjaersgaard, leader of the Danish "No" campaign, last weekend, that "little Denmark with our referendum could change not only our future but also that of the UK and the rest of Europe", is both untrue and impertinent. Unlike the Danes' rejection of the Maastricht treaty eight years ago, the result of the referendum will make no difference to the rest of Europe: the euro is here to stay. Nor will it make any difference to the forthcoming Nice summit on enlargement of the union, which will also go ahead anyway. The Danes have every right to reject the euro if they wish; but we must keep a clear view about where our long-term interests lie.

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