The probability now is that Britain will not join the European single currency even in the next parliament, never mind in this one. Just possibly, the economic imperatives will, in time, become overwhelming, dragging along all but the most diehard sceptics; if, later in the decade, what is left of British manufacturing industry were to start relocating to eastern Europe because countries such as the Czech Republic had joined the eurozone, even the Sun might change its tune. But there is no sign of anything like that at present. The eurozone has not yet turned out to be the economic powerhouse that was widely forecast; it is growing more slowly than Britain; it has higher unemployment; and it even faces, some pessimists think, the ultimate terror of deflation. In sharp contrast to America, Europe's population is declining, making it less enticing as a trading partner. The Treasury and its advisers estimate the euro's maximum annual addition to British GDP at 0.25 per cent - a significant benefit, no doubt, but hardly the difference between boom and bust.
Meanwhile, Gordon Brown, for all the spin about how he has softened on the euro, seems to have set the hurdles for entry even higher. Buried in the dense prose that has rolled over the country in recent days like a tide of mud, there lie hints that Britain must reform both its housing and labour markets, with more effective property taxes and more distinct regional pay rates. This would compel new Labour to take on homeowners and the trade unions simultaneously - a prospect that would daunt the boldest government. So entry to the euro requires a politician of exceptional, almost blinkered dedication to the European ideal - an Edward Heath or a Konrad Adenauer, say, who would see it (however peculiar that seemed to other people) as his life's mission.
It seems doubtful now that Tony Blair, despite his anxieties about his place in history, could play that role. When he came to power, Europe was Mr Blair's big political project. It was an extension of his enthusiasm for modernisation, which is itself a vague substitute for any firm political beliefs. Europe was wrapped up with abolition of hereditary legislators and fox-hunters, the Scottish Parliament, "flexible" public services, beacon schools, etc, as something that looked modern, fresh, forward-looking. Europe - or at least the eurozone, dominated by "old" countries - no longer looks that way.
Mr Blair has new passions: removing scars on the global conscience, toppling dictators. (He has, as John Kampfner reports on page 14, spent many hours on the euro, but that is as much to do with his power relations with the Chancellor as with the substantive issue.) Mr Brown has always had another passion: for remaking Britain as an entrepreneurial country that uses enhanced wealth to benefit the poor. Why should either man put himself out for Europe? One has his global vision, the other his domestic vision. A Europe that moves towards integration would be at best a distraction, at worst an inhibition. Mr Blair has already found Europe a drag on his global agenda; Mr Brown, who wishes to tax, regulate, borrow and spend as it suits his agenda, would soon find it a drag if Britain signed up to growth and stability pacts.
This is not to suggest that Mr Blair has turned into a Eurosceptic, or even that Mr Brown is one in the usual sense of the term. Neither man bothers much about "sovereignty", a thousand years of history, the Queen's head and all those other mystical matters that so preoccupy the Tories. Attitudes to Europe remain the clearest dividing line between the parties - all the more so as the Tory Europhiles become older and more marginalised. But the truth is that a 21st-century Heath or Macmillan would need far more courage, single-mindedness and leadership qualities than the 20th-century versions did. European integration was always an elite project and its pioneers benefited from a popular deference that has vanished. Paradoxically, the weakness of the opposition in Britain makes a referendum harder to win: when voters feel they cannot give their leaders a bloody nose in a general election, they will seize any other opportunity.
New Labour leaders are aware of all this. They will not risk the comforts of power for the euro. The gains are too uncertain, and none (with the exception of the exiled Peter Mandelson) believes in the European ideal quite strongly enough. Ministers will, as promised, "put the case" - Mr Blair with great vigour - but they will not storm the country and nobody would pay much heed if they did. They now have a road map of sorts, but it is blocked by highway engineers, snarl-ups and snowdrifts. Like Pitt after Austerlitz, they may as well roll it up; it will not be wanted these ten years.
Beckham: a correct analysis
As in all hitherto existing societies, there is class struggle. Manager and footballer, oppressor and oppressed: the Uefa Champions League has but established new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. Our epoch, the epoch of the Fergiosie, has simplified class antagonisms. The Fergiosie has pitilessly torn asunder all the ties that bound a simple sportsman to his city, his team-mates, his family, his fans, his haircut, his £2.5m house in Hertfordshire and his lucrative Pepsi contract, and left no other nexus than naked self-interest and callous "cash payment". He has drowned out the most heavenly ecstasies of the terraces. All fixed, fast-frozen team moves are swept away; all that is solid melts into a Manchester Utd share price; all that is holy to the Stretford End is profaned. Beckhams of the world, unite: you have nothing to lose but £80,000 a week, plus £20,000 image rights. (With apologies to Marx and Engels.)