The UK should stay in the single market and customs union during the Brexit transition period after 2019, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said on Thursday.

The CBI represents nearly 190,000 British businesses.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, said in a speech at the London School of Economics (LSE):

This is not about whether we are leaving the EU, it is about how. Once the Article 50 clock strikes midnight on 29 March 2019 the UK will leave the EU. This common-sense approach would bring continuity to firms in the UK and the EU and protect investment today.

The manufacturers’ organisation EEF and the TUC trade union, which represents more than 5.6m British workers lent their support to CBI’s recommendations.

A TUC spokesman said:

It’s crucial that we get the transition right as we leave the EU.

However, Patrick Minford, chairman of the Economists for Free Trade, an organisation which puts forwards the view that the UK’s optimal Brexit path is outside the single market and customs union, disagrees with the CBI’s proposals.

He told the BBC:

They are constantly arguing for remain through the back door and this sounds like the same thing.

UK chancellor Philip Hammond has renewed his calls for a transition period after 2019.

Fairbairn said:

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This is a time to be realistic. Instead of a cliff edge, the UK needs a bridge to the new EU deal. Even with the greatest possible goodwill on both sides, it’s impossible to imagine the detail will be clear by the end of March 2019.