IT IS all change at the top for the government team seeking post-Brexit trade deals, but the big one slipped away this week.

The confirmation from Joe Biden to Boris Johnson that there would be no special trade deal with the UK was a large dose of cold water for Johnson, but it came as no surprise. The US has little regard for the so-called special relationship with the UK, viewing the EU as more important strategically and in terms of trade.

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The UK was a big player in the deal to oust France from a contract to build submarines for the Australians, but no reward for damaging relations with France was forthcoming for Johnson. Instead another oven-ready trade deal crashed and burned.

As a consolation prize the UK might be able to join a free trade pact with the US, Canada and Mexico. This is akin to missing a lottery win by one number and finding you have won a fiver. Such a deal offers little, and certainly not for agriculture. NAFTA has been a spectacularly poor trade deal, because the biggest outcome from it was to move jobs from the US to Mexico as a low wage economy.

The best answer would be thanks, but no thanks, but that would dent Johnson’s conviction that the world is keener to do trade deals with the UK than the EU. It would be a safe bet that the EU will have a trade deal with the US before the UK does the same – and both are long finger prospects.

The changes at the top of the International Trade department are unlikely to produce a new level of dynamism to the lacklustre performance to date on securing trade deals. Supporters of Liz Truss, now foreign secretary, claimed she had many successes at trade, but beyond a potentially damaging for agriculture draft trade deal with Australia, results are thin on the ground. She got out just before it became clear her claims of an imminent trade deal with the US were more about hope than expectation. The new minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, is a former accountant but has little hard-headed business experience. She is a advocate for animal welfare, but opposes the ban on fox hunting, and backs a ban on live exports.

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She is a supporter of fair trade principles and ethical trading, winning praise for pressing the rights of overseas workers producing clothes for the UK High Street giants. If she is to avoid charges of hypocrisy in her new role she will have to show a greater commitment than Truss to make adherence to UK food standards central to trade deals.

This is an issue the farming lobby will rightly be able to push in discussions with Trevelyan. She is a Brexit supporter and always has been, believing that real trade opportunities for the UK lie beyond Europe. To that end she is fully committed to the Global Britain concept. Previously a harsh critic of those warning of the consequence of climate change she now claims to have changed her opinions. Previous government roles were in defence procurement and as the minister at the now scrapped department for international development. Here number two at the department is Penny Mordaunt, who also cut her ministerial teeth in international development. She is best known for her support for the military, as an effective speaker and constituency MP and more controversially for defying convention to appear in the reality swimsuit television programme, Splash.

This team faces the same challenges as Truss of pursuing policies based around minimal or zero tariff principles while protecting UK industries led by farming and food. Time will tell whether they can be more effective on the international stage. They continue to face the challenges that flow from a population of 60 million making the UK a trade minnow compared to the EU.

With a rebuff in Washington and a food and fuel crisis at home it has not been a good week for government ministers. The crisis created by a fertiliser company stopping production and hitting carbon dioxide supplies was a bolt from the blue that underlined the vulnerability of the supply chain. It should move the issue of food security up the agenda, but instead ministers believe they can return to the magic money tree for more sticking plasters to persuade an American company with plants here to produce fertiliser uneconomically so that the food industry can get the by-product.