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If TUPE is not being applied then there would be no automatic transfer of employment from the current to the new company and as such your continuous service will be lost anyway. However, if TUPE did apply then this would happen automatically, regardless of whether there was any mention of this in the new contract or not.
So assuming that TUPE did not actually apply in the circumstances, I would push for the employer to make you redundant now from the current company and only then should you agree to sign a new contract for the new company. If the employer refuses to make you redundant now, then I would be asking them to include a clause in the new contract to confirm that your continuous employment is preserved and that it goes back to include the time with the old company.
So you want to cover yourself in every situation - either get the redundancy now for the service over the last 18 years, or if TUPE does not apply - get them to honour the length of continuous service from both companies by including a clause to that effect In the new contract.
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