MORE than 60 per cent of Scottish businesses want the softest of Brexits, with the UK remaining in both the EU single market and the customs union, according to a poll.

The online survey for the British Chambers of Commerce also found Scottish companies were keener on keeping the current links than those south of the border.

Mirroring the 62-38 vote to Remain last year in Scotland, the poll found 61 per cent of Scottish firms wanted to stay in the single market and customs union, compared to 53 per cent of companies across the UK.

Underlining the desire for continuity, 68 per cent of Scottish and UK respondents also wanted a transition period of at least three years after the UK leaves the EU in spring 2019.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has backed a three-year transition to avoid a sudden lurch into a new trading environment, while Chancellor Philip Hammond has said it may be longer.

The survey covered 2,422 firms between June 12 and 14, including 445 in Scotland.

The SNP has also called for the UK, or at least Scotland, to remain in the single market.

Reacting to the poll, Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “This is the consistent message I have heard from businesses in my engagement with them.

"It is no surprise that a clear majority of Scottish businesses wish to avoid the extreme Brexit the Tory government has proposed and which continues to present a huge threat to jobs, investment and living standards in Scotland.”

However Theresa May has put UK withdrawal from single market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice at the heart of her Brexit policy.

Single market membership would mean continued freedom of movement instead of greater immigration control, while customs union membership would mean the UK staying part of a European tariff system, stopping it from cutting trade deals with non-EU countries.

Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said its members wanted to trade easily with the EU, with no financial tariffs and minimal regulation.

She said: “The EU may have fallen behind the rest of the world in terms of the value of Scotland’s exports but it remains a vital export destination, particularly as Scotland seeks to grow the number of businesses trading internationally.

“ Scottish businesses do not want to be facing a cliff edge in two years’ time.

“If Scotland and the UK’s economic needs are to be satisfied, then business must be listened to during these crucial negotiations.”

Sir Vince Cable yesterday said Brexit may prove too problematic to deliver.

The only candidate to replace Tim Farron as leader of the UK LibDems, Sir Vince said the practical difficulties would be “enormous”.

Last month SNP Brexit Minister Michael Russell also said the UK might stay in the EU.

He told a Holyrood committee: “This is the most unpredictable set of circumstances that I have ever seen in politics... I am not 100% convinced that the exit will happen."

Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir Vince said that if the economy suffered in anticipation of Brexit "the whole question of continued membership will once again arise".

He said: "I'm beginning to think that Brexit may never happen. The problems are so enormous, the divisions within the two main parties are so enormous, I can see a scenario in which this doesn't happen."

Sir Vince also predicted Jeremy Corbyn’s election “bubble” would burst, as Labour supporters realised he was "very pro-Brexit, and a hard Brexit”.

He urged pro-EU, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs to defect to the LibDems: “We have a generous policy to refugees and if they come they will get food and accommodation.”

Germany’s leading business organisations also cast doubt on idea that car makers and other industries would want the UK to have a generous reciprocal trade deal with the EU.

Instead, they said maintaining the integrity of the EU single market was the priority.

The intervention was a blow to Tory ministers, which have frequently claimed EU industries would lobby their governments for a deal giving them maximum access to the UK market.

Dieter Kempf, president of federation of German industries, told the Observer: "Defending the single market, a key European project, must be the priority. It is the responsibility of the British Government to limit the damage on both sides of the Channel. It will be extraordinarily difficult to avert negative effects on British businesses in particular."

Ingo Kramer, president of the confederation of German employers' associations, added: “The cohesion of the remaining 27 EU member states has highest priority."