More than 300 million people will use a new currency in Europe from the start of next year, but we in Britain will not be among them.

While the drachma will disappear and the mark will miss out, pounds and pence will continue.

Most people in this country are not wild about joining the euro which is why Tony Blair isn't rushing forward to hold the pledged referendum on the issue. But the chances are that it will happen anyway through the process known as eurocreep.

Leading retailers, even in companies such as Dixons headed by noted opponents of the single European currency are accepting the new money because they realise it makes good economic sense. With 12 continental countries using it, we are the odd ones out.

Why are we so unenthusiastic about the euro? The only good reason I can think of is that the currency hardly made an auspicious start when the first moves were made last year but it has since recovered.

The main reasons seem to be misplaced sentiment for the pound and a perverse Little Englander mentality.

There was some point in maintaining the pound when it was worth a lot of money and the coinage had a kind of crazy grandeur about it before decimalisation 30 years ago.

But inflation robbed the pound of its value and the new coins, although more logical than the old ones, lacked their loveliness.

Half a century ago, the UK made a huge mistake in not getting involved in the early negotiations for the Common Market.

It means that countries such as France, an economic and political disaster in the years following the Second World War, were able to leap past us.

I fear a similar mistake is being made this time but the consequences will not be so dire because sheer practicalities will force us to follow sooner or later.

People will learn to love the euro, not least because all that rigmarole of changing money every time you cross a border in Europe will have gone for ever.

There are some worries that changing our currency will somehow make us lose our national identity. Not a bit of it.

Take a look at our neighbours just 70 miles across the Channel from Sussex.

If anything the French are even madder than we are and nothing much is going to change simply because you pay for a coffee and cognac in euros rather than francs from next Tuesday.

The new coins are also not going to make us part of a European superstate because none of the other countries wants that any more than we do.

While there are huge advantages in closer co-operation over trade and currency, each nation has its own unique way of running its affairs and they will remain.

South east Euro MP Chris Huhne, an expert on the euro, points out that next year Britons will make 40 million journeys to eurozone countries, including 10 million to Spain alone.

Meanwhile 13 million euro-using visitors will come to the UK, making up more than half of all tourists visiting Britain.

Businesses prepared for euro cash will obviously have a great advantage, especially in the tourist industry.

It could all go badly wrong and then the anti-euro campaigners will feel smug.

Any change of this magnitude represents a gamble. But I think and hope it will work well.

It would be nice another time if this country led the way on European initiatives instead of following on behind like a lame dog.

We are not even really an island any more thanks to the Channel Tunnel. Many of us love going to Continental Europe.

Let's take a pride in joining forces with our neighbours instead of persisting in our blinkered attitude regarding foreigners.