Boris Johnson’s Post-Brexit Plan for Britain Remains a Puzzle

LONDON—British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has finished a rocky yr on a higher notice, with a free of charge-trade agreement with the European Union beneath his belt and mass vaccination against Covid-19 beneath way.

Now that the country is unconstrained by most EU principles, he has a when-in-a-generation political chance to reshape the U.K. and define its write-up-EU course. The significant not known is what he will do with that chance.

Brexit was billed by some of its longtime advocates as a way of unleashing a new dynamism in Britain by ditching Brussels’ crimson tape to build a lower-tax, freewheeling “Singapore-on-Thames”—a phrase coined by a preceding British Treasury main, Philip Hammond—selling its merchandise and providers across the entire world.

But Mr. Johnson is not a free of charge-market Conservative in the mold of Margaret Thatcher. He has so much promised Britons extra regulation, not a lot less, with bold designs to raise the bare minimum wage and control greenhouse-gasoline emissions. He has promised extra state investing, not a lot less, in purchase to “level up” an economic system he says is too dependent on London and southern England.

This sort of guidelines enabled him to earn significant in final year’s election in districts customarily hostile to the ruling Conservatives, although his dogged pursuit of Brexit alienated lots of of his party’s regular allies in corporate boardrooms. All these tensions existing a puzzle: If Mr. Johnson doesn’t want a different Thatcher-style financial revolution, what does he want to do with Britain’s liberty from Brussels?