The Hilton Hotel in Park Lane, London was the setting for the annual Provision Trade Federation (PTF) black-tie dinner last night (28th March) where around 600 guests enjoyed a first-class meal plus entertainment from comedian and impressionist Jon Culshaw.

During a convivial evening, regarded as one of the highlights of the business year, speeches were presented from director general Andrew Kuyk, chairman of PTF Elizabeth (Liz) Sutton of Delamere Dairy, and Philip Langslow of County Milk, the vice-chair.

Hitting the mood of the evening, Andrew Kuyk commented that: “Jean-Claude Juncker said to the European Parliament yesterday that he had run out of words to talk about Brexit. I think we’re probably all with him on that.

“Just when you think it can’t get any more weird or confusing, it does.

“This was supposed to have been Brexit eve – by when everything should have been in place for either a seamless ‘business as usual’ transition towards a mutually agreed future relationship, or a well-prepared parting of the ways on separate tracks.

“Instead we face more uncertainty that any of us could possibly have imagined. And whatever happened to ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, one of the many mantras which seem to have fallen by the wayside over the last few months.

Andrew Kuyk, PTF director general.

“Our role – as your trade association – has been to try to guide you through all this as best we can – and to drive home to government the points we have been making for the last two years about the need for the best possible terms of trade with current and future partners, trusted and proportionate regulation and access to the skills, labour and investment we need to continue to make world leading products for our customers.

“But we now find ourselves having to cope with all the complexities of no deal planning, while helping you to understand what on earth is going on.”

In her speech, PTF Chair of PTF Liz Sutton said: “We need to make a positive case for the natural animal and fishery products we represent, which are such an essential part of healthy balanced diets. We also need to drive improvements in resource efficiency, cutting waste and helping to meet the targets of the UK Plastics Pact.”

Guests start to network after formal proceeding conclude.

As usual, during the evening there was a prize draw to benefit the Provision Trade Benevolent Institution, the trades charity.

Andrew Kuyk summed up his address by saying: “I left writing these remarks for tonight until the last possible moment, in case I might have something more positive to say. But we are truly now in a crisis situation with no clear plan of any sort.

“But for the rest of the evening at least, I hope we can all relax and enjoy ourselves.”