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With forceful words, Obama urges Britain to remain part of European Union

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President Obama and the first lady plan to lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Friday to toast her 90th birthday
Obama dines with queen and jumps into Britain's EU debate 01:29

President Obama is doubling down on his support for the United Kingdom to remain a part of the European Union, even as some prominent British politicians have accused the U.S. leader of being "nakedly hypocritical" on the issue.

"This is a decision for the United Kingdom to make," the president told reporters Friday during a visit to London. "I'm not coming here to fix any votes. I'm not casting a vote myself. I'm offering my opinion."

But the outcome of the June 23rd "Brexit" referendum, which calls for Britain to secede from its membership with the E.U., remains "a matter of deep interest" to the United States "because it affects our prospects as well," the president said.

"The United States wants a strong United Kingdom as a partner, and the United Kingdom is at its best when it's helping to lead a strong Europe. It leverages UK power to be part of the European Union," he added. "I don't believe the EU moderates British influence in the world -- it magnifies it.

Queen Elizabeth celebrates 90th birthday 02:17

"I believe the UK strengthens both our collective prosperity through the EU," the president said of the U.S. and its island ally. "We want to make sure that that influence is heard. That it's felt. That it influences how other countries think about critical issues. We have confidence that when the UK is involved in the problem, that they're going to help solve it in the right way. That's why the United States cares about this."

The president, standing alongside Prime Minister David Cameron, argued the referendum could have a disastrous effect on the trade future between the United States and the United Kingdom.

"I think it is fair to say, maybe at some point down the line there might be a U.K.-U.S. trade agreement," he said, but predicted that "it's not going to happen anytime soon."

"Our focus is in negotiating with a big block of the European Union to get a trade agreement done," the president said. "And the U.K. is going to be in the back of the queue."

Some have criticized Mr. Obama's willingness to comment on the international debate, including London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"If that is the American argument then it is nakedly hypocritical," Johnson told the BBC earlier this week. "The Americans would never dream of" sharing sovereignty the way EU membership requires.

Cameron, who does not support exiting the EU, backed up the U.S. leader on his right to weigh in on the UK debate.

"It also does affect others in the European Union, it affects partners like America or Canada or Australia and New Zealand," the prime minister said. "It is hard to find -- so far, I haven't found one -- a country that wishes Britain well that thinks we ought to leave the European Union."

"Listening to our friends, listening to countries that wish us well is part of the process and is a good thing to do," he added.

The president also talked of the two countries' relationship, as well as the two leaders' "extraordinary partnership." After joking that the two have "shared our country's beers with each other," the president more seriously noted that the U.K.-U.S. alliance has also helped contain the outbreak of Ebola, pushed through the Iran nuclear deal, and put into motion the Paris climate change talks.

The president also spoke on domestic concerns while abroad.

He commented that North Carolina's transgender bathroom law was "wrong" and "should be overturned," just as Republican presidential candidates have also given their opinions in recent days.

Mr. Obama also commemorated the death of music legend Prince, which he said was a "remarkable loss" for the nation.

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