More than one third of British businesses think the UK should remain in the EU's Single Market and Customs Union, according to a study from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).
In a survey of more than 2,400 companies, 34 per cent of respondents urged the government to ensure the country stays in the tariff-free area.
A further 28 per cent would prefer a comprehensive free trade agreement and customs agreement, but there was next-to-no call for a 'no deal' option.
Just two per cent said the UK should leave the Single Market and Customs Union, and rely on World Trade Organisation rules for trading.
“Our results make it clear that there are a range of business views on what the UK should be seeking in a final deal with the EU, but there is near-universal consensus that a deep and comprehensive agreement is needed. 'No deal' isn't seen as a viable option,” said Adam Marshall, director general of the BCC.
Around one tenth of respondents would just remain in the Single Market, accepting EU regulations and rules in return for full access, while 13 per cent would only stay in the Customs Union, where there are no hard borders or tariffs but limited scope to negotiate with third countries.
Meanwhile almost half of the businesses would like a transition period of three years, while 22 per cent would like longer than this and 17 per cent would like no transition time.
“By more than three to one, businesses want a transition period on the way to a final agreement with the EU. This is critical to prevent firms facing the prospect of repeated, costly adjustments to new trading conditions,” said Marshall.
Most of the businesses surveyed were small and medium-sized enterprises, while three quarters operated in the services sector and one quarter in manufacturing.