It may be, as Eurosceptics argue, that Europe cannot change. But the initial reaction from national leaders has been encouraging. Germany’s Angela Merkel and the present commission president, José Manuel Barroso, have both called on the commission to do less. France’s François Hollande says the EU is too remote and must scale back its power. Italy’s Matteo Renzi has won backing for reform. David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, has been demanding a reduction in the powers of Brussels for years, while campaigning for a broader single market. Europe’s other leaders would do well to adopt his ideas—and then pretend they did not come from Britain.
The first job is to appoint a new president of the European Commission prepared to implement radical change. The continuity (and federalist) candidate, Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, used to have Mrs Merkel’s support. But she seems to have realised that doing nothing is not an option. Our choice would be Christine Lagarde, the French boss of the IMF, a clever, brave outsider, who knows how to take on vested interests. With Ms Lagarde as president, Britain would be more likely to stay in. If the EU is to survive, it will need that sort of leadership. And its survival really is in question now.