Britain this week begins a historic new chapter after a landslide election lent wings to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ambition to recast the nation. A ford has been crossed, irrespective of whether the victory was an expression of voter disenchantment with three years of bickering over Brexit or the consequence of discomfort with Labour chief Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and his left-leaning economic agenda. Now, mountains tower ahead and Mr Johnson must prove himself a skilful climber. He might be tempted to interpret the landmark 80-seat majority in Parliament as consent to lead a full-throttle charge out of the European Union. But a more careful reading might be that the election outcome provides him with a useful cover to design the most conducive relationship with the EU once Britain is out the door on Jan 31 and the transition period kicks in.
Mr Johnson must choose between what Britain most wants: access to Europe, with the entailing rules; or the freedom to set its own course after dismantling tariff regimes and quotas. The EU has made it clear that he cannot have both, and the time to agree on mutually satisfactory terms - which most experts warn usually takes several years - runs out next December. Within the Withdrawal Amendment Bill that will be introduced tomorrow is a clause that bars an extension of the post-Brexit transition period beyond next year.