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Barack Obama leaves Britain amid cheers and jeers

Published 24/04/2016

Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron play golf at the Grove course in Hertfordshire
Barack Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron play golf at the Grove course in Hertfordshire

Barack Obama has jetted out of Britain, as politicians continue to argue over his dramatic intervention in the Brexit battle.

Mr Obama provoked a whirlwind of both cheers and jeers during what is likely to be his his final visit to the country as US president.

He is due to land in Germany on Sunday afternoon, where he w ill finish his tour of the Middle East and Europe.

Before leaving, Mr Obama reinforced his stark statement that the UK would be at "the back of the queue" for a beneficial economic arrangement if it breaks away from Brussels.

The Leave camp have been left infuriated by the president's outspoken support for the EU, but young people in London gave him rapturous applause during a town hall-style meeting on Saturday.

The president used the meeting to urge young people to reject cynics telling them they cannot change the world.

He praised the close relationship between the US and the UK, which he said had improved dramatically since the British "burned down my house" - a reference to the torching of the White House in the war of 1812-1814.

The president insisted now was the best time in human history to be alive as he urged the audience to ignore cynical voices saying that nothing could change.

"Take a longer, more optimistic view of history," Mr Obama said.

Though he did not refer directly to his controversial remarks that a post-Brexit Britain would be at the "back of the queue" when it came to American trade deals, Mr Obama said that generally such economic agreements were difficult due to "parochial" interests and "factions" within countries.

Mr Obama said racial tensions in America still needed to be dealt with, and people could not be complacent just because an African-American was in the White House.

"One of the dangers is that by electing a black president people say there must be no problem at all."

A Sikh questioner called for movement on issues like discrimination at airport security. Mr Obama insisted it was explicit US policy not to racially profile at airports.

The president also praised the Black Lives Matter movement for raising awareness but warned that you "can't just keep on yelling" at people who want to sit down and talk.

"Seek out people who don't agree with you. That will teach you to compromise. Compromise does not mean surrendering what you believe," he said.

Asked about the peace process in Northern Ireland, Mr Obama said it was an example of what could be achieved when the US and Britain worked together.

He said the greatest allies in the fight against terrorism were Muslim Americans.

"If we engage in Islamophobia we are not only betraying what is essential to us, but, just as a practical matter, we are engaging in self-defeating behaviour if we are serious about terrorism," he said.

Though billed as an opportunity for young people to connect with Mr Obama, there were also some famous faces in the audience including Annie Lennox, Benedict Cumberbatch, Holly Valance, Bank of England governor Mark Carney and designer Ozwald Boateng.

Mr Obama also met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and headed to Hertfordshire for a game of golf with Prime Minister David Cameron.

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