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Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Sweden: No, Britain: Never

BY SATURDAY, I was planning what I would write if Sweden said 'Yes' to the Euro. Listening to the BBC - the same ones presenting today's Iraq as a Vietnamesque quagmire, of which more later - I foolishly took seriously their reports that sympathy for the murdered europhile Anna Lindh was swinging the vote firmly that way. "Shame on all those Swedes who allowed sentiment to overwhelm them into voting away their nation's independence" was one line I had firmly fixed in my mind. I didn't need it.

Needless to say it was a quite wonderful result for anyone who opposes a federal Europe. It cannot be stressed enough how much Swedish europhiles had going for them. The governing social democrats mostly favoured the euro. This is not just any leftist government, but one so much a part of the country's politicial establishment that it has governed Sweden for more than sixty of the past seventy years. The 'Yes' campaign had a larger budget that George W. Bush's Presidential campaign. It was backed by conservatives in parliament and the media keener to see Sweden's welfare state diminished by Brussels diktat than their country free to make its own choices in the world. Business and unions were united in support. The Prime Minister had chosen the time and date of the referendum, making that decision at a time when the europhiles had a fifteen point opinion poll lead. The campaign's only parliamentary opposition came from communists. And someone who was by all accounts the Swedish Mo Mowlam, and a fervent europhile, was brutally murdered three days before the poll.

But even with all of this, 56% said 'No' to the euro, with fewer than 42% of Swedes supportive. If this is the story for Sweden, we can only dream of what would happen if Blair dared attempt to introduce the euro to Britain. As the Telegraph put it:

Our euro supporters are in an immeasurably weaker position than their counterparts in Sweden - or, for that matter, Denmark, where, almost exactly three years ago, a similarly unbalanced referendum also saw the "no" campaign come from behind to win. In Britain, unlike these countries, one of the main political parties is campaigning to keep the existing currency, the press (if not the BBC) is divided, many businesses and even some trade unions are anti-euro and, not least, the public is two-to-one against.

The British, Swedish and Danish opt-outs now look permanent.

Quite simply, "even the most fanatical supporters of the euro must now recognise that it isn't going to happen".

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