BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany should not jeopardize its trade relations with the rest of the European Union in a deal on Britain's departure from the bloc, the chief of the BDI Federation of Germany Industries said, throwing his weight behind Chancellor Angela Merkel.


Merkel has told Britain it will not be able to "cherry pick" what it wants to keep from its EU membership. The chancellor has also described the EU's "four freedoms" - of movement of goods, capital, people, and services - as essential for the bloc.


Markus Kerber, managing director of the BDI Federation of Germany Industries, told Reuters it was important to stress that the four freedoms could only be enjoyed with EU membership.


"It must be a priority for the German government and the EU to defend the single market as a crucial European project," Kerber wrote by e-mail, adding Germany's trade with the rest of the EU should not be jeopardized by granting Britain exceptions.


"Because the business ties of the German economy with the remaining EU countries go far beyond the economic relations between Germany and Britain," Kerber said.

In 2015, German exports to other EU members minus Britain accounted for more than 50 percent of overall sales abroad while German exports to Britain accounted for only seven percent.

Kerber's backing for Merkel comes only days before the German Chancellor is scheduled to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May for bilateral talks in Berlin on Friday.

May has said her country does not face a "binary choice" between curbing immigration and getting a good trade agreement. But so far the EU has portrayed the bloc's single market as a set meal, rather than an à la carte menu that Britain can pick and choose from.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Caroline Copley)