In July I spent two weeks in a very hot Finland, then in August a long weekend in an equally hot Spain. Though these two countries are poles apart in many ways, they now share the same currency – and this summer even the same climate.

For tourists in the euro zone the new currency has obvious advantages. The desk drawer of unused pesetas, lire, drachma notes and coins from previous holidays is a thing of the past. No more need to order different currencies from the bank for each country to be visited. My bank even lets me withdraw euro notes from its automated cash machines.

If tourists can benefit from the euro, then international business can profit even more. No more buying and selling in currencies that can fluctuate so much that any profit on the sale of a product can be changed to a loss within the period between the customer ordering and the factory delivering the goods.

Despite the benefits for tourist and business alike, the Swedes voted decisively last Sunday to reject the euro. In fact Sweden was only the second EU country to vote directly on whether to accept the euro or not, the other one was Denmark three years ago, when 53% of voters said ‘no’. The score line of 2 – nil is not an encouraging one for either the euro or the European Union. Little wonder the British government is slow to honor its pledge of allowing referendum on the euro before joining; polls confirm another defeat for the euro would be inevitable.

As with many European countries, including Switzerland, the Swedish politicians were mainly for the euro and presented a fairly united front, leaving the voters with a choice, not only of voting themselves a new currency, but also voting for or against their political establishment. Economically, Sweden is currently well placed in Europe; unemployment is half that of the euro-zone countries and it has the second fastest growing economy in the EU. The fastest growing being another non-euro country, Britain. On that fact alone, there was good reason for the Swedes to vote ‘no’.

Additionally, Sweden is also a special case in that four of its five major trading partners are outside the euro zone, the US, Great Britain, Norway and Denmark.

The strength or weakness of a currency reflects the health of a country’s economy. If a country is prospering it is reflected in a higher value of their currency. When the currency gets too strong, exports become expensive and sales are jeopardised, so interest rates are lowered. Investors place their money elsewhere and the value of the currency falls again. Unemployment, interest rates, public borrowing, economic growth, prices, inflation and so living standards are all closely linked together. But with the euro this control is taken away from individual governments and handed to the European Central Bank.

The euro is nothing short of a wild, bold adventure that has never been successfully tried before. The US dollar is often quoted as an example of a successful union of currencies when the north and south of the USA joined their respective dollars. But this was in 1860s and the USA was on the brink of bankruptcy due to their civil war. The union was only of two currencies within one country and one economy. Most important of all it was as a result of the disruption of war; a very different scenario to present-day Europe.

At about the same time the dollar was unified, Switzerland was part of the LMU (Latin Monetary Union) with France, Belgium and Italy based on silver coins and the French franc. It did not work and was abandoned. There was even an attempt at SMU (Scandinavian Monetary Union) between Norway, Sweden and Finland in the 1870s. Like LMU it was based on a precious metal, gold. The economic differences and the impossibility of running the scheme when paper money was introduced ended the union. Likewise the East African Shilling, a result of British colonial interests, which united the currencies of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 1933 collapsed due to the poor performance of the British pound and was abandoned in 1977.

Uniting currencies is nothing new. What would be new is a successful voluntary union of currencies, not as a result of war or conquest and not based on gold. Today the stakes are much higher than in colonial Africa or post civil war USA in the 19th century. The collapse of the euro is unthinkable, but already France and Germany – the key players - are unable to maintain the strict rules of the so-called Stability Pact, a kind of tight monetary corset. This sets strict limits on the amount governments can spend and borrow to stimulate their economies and thus improve their unemployment situation.

The Swedish ‘yes’ campaigners argued that had Sweden joined the euro when it started, today Sweden would have had 15% more trade. Politicians love spectacular short term results, when they can take the credit for it and collect tax on that extra 15%. Business naturally is all for 15% more trade. Whether the average voter would have seen any of that extra trade is another matter.

The ‘no’ campaigners saw no reason why they should join a ‘poor man’s club’ when Sweden was doing better than the euro zone. Longer term I fear that Sweden’s voters and those of Switzerland, Norway, the United Kingdom and Denmark may have unwittingly saved their economies from much trouble in future years by saying ‘no’.