German minister wants close security ties with post-Brexit Britain

LONDON, Jan 16 (Reuters) - Germany wants to deepen trade ties with London and continue close cooperation on security and defence projects after Britain's divorce from the European Union, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Thursday.

Britain is set to leave the EU on Jan. 31 after agreeing a deal late last year. It will remain bound by the bloc's rules until the end of 2020 under an agreed transition phase designed to smooth its exit.

"Brexit is not the end of cooperation between Britain and Europe and not at all the end of cooperation between Britain and Germany,” she said in the text of a speech she delivered in London, stressing common interests bound them together.

“We want to deepen our trade and keep it free of tariffs and restrictions. Germany is, after the U.S., Britain’s most important trade partner. That must remain so without the protective ceiling of the EU," the text said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer, head of Germany's conservative CDU and a possible successor to Chancellor Angela Merkel, also made clear she valued Britain's voice in security debates. Europe's security was indivisible, she said, adding she wanted to forge ahead together with armaments projects.

"That means that Britain will not be categorically excluded from EU programmes and that we find a sensible third state rule,” she said in the speech text.

After Brexit, new groupings beyond NATO would be needed, she said, so that Germany and Britain could effectively discuss European security. She cited the example of the way Britain, Germany and France worked together with world powers to try to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons. (Reporting by Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Giles Elgood)