German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stressed she hopes that Britain will vote to remain in the European Union in a June 23 referendum.

Britain and Germany have traditionally been allies in the EU on matters such as free trade.

In a speech Friday to a group representing family-owned businesses, Merkel said: "From my point of view, Great Britain remaining in the European Union is the best and most desirable thing for us all."

She added that "we have very close cooperation on many questions with Great Britain, and would of course like to continue this within the framework of the European Union."

Germany has the biggest economy in the 28-nation bloc.