Nearly nine out of 10 firms would prefer to delay Brexit rather than leave the EU without a deal, according to a CBI survey.
Released as MPs prepared to vote on a possible extension to the two-year Article 50 negotiations, the research found that just 8% of 273 companies polled reject a delay beyond the scheduled date of March 29.
Some 88% said they favoured an extension if the alternative was no deal.
CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie said: “An overwhelming majority of businesses want an extension to Article 50, which should be as short as possible, but as long as is necessary.
“Business wants this resolved now, so any extra time must be used by MPs to finally craft a solution that protects livelihoods and communities across the UK. This demands a new approach from politicians across the House.
“No-one wants this to drag on but faced with the choice of a harsh no-deal, businesses will back an extension every day of the week.”
National chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses Mike Cherry said: “Extending Article 50 for a short time is a realistic way to safeguard against a damaging and disastrous no-deal Brexit on March 29.
“This should only happen though if Parliament has a clear and coherent plan to get us out of this mess. There is absolutely no point extending uncertainty if all we get is more dithering, debate and political games.
“We would only be avoiding a cliff-edge on March 29 to then face another further down the road.
“As the Westminster shambles have played out, pragmatism has been in short supply. This is needed now more than ever.
“Wherever MPs fall on the political spectrum, small businesses need them to stop playing games and come together in a genuine show of unity to find a solution that protects businesses, communities and the economy.”