Don’t Pull Back From the World: Obama to UK Youth
US PRESIDENT WARNS BRITISH YOUNG PEOPLE TO REJECT THE CYNICISM PIPED TO THEM
United States President Barack Obama implored young British people on Saturday not to pull back from the world, a day after sparking a row by bluntly telling Britain it should remain in the European Union to preserve its remaining global clout. Mr Obama angered critics of the EU last Friday by warning that Britain would be at “the back of the cue” for a trade deal, if it left the club - one of the strongest US interventions in the affairs of a western European democracy since the Cold War. Speaking to about 550 invited British young people at a “town hall” Mr Obama sought to pitch a more optimistic message to young Britons, who are considered to be more pro-European, if less active, voters than their parents. Mr Obama said he wanted young people to reject the cynicism piped towards them by TV and Twitter, and he lauded both the European Union and NATO for sustaining peace and prosperity in Europe after centuries of war and strife. “Think about how extraordinary that is: For more than 1000 years this continent was darkened by war and violence.
“It was taken for granted. It was assumed that was the fate of man,” Mr Obama said at Lindley Hall in London.
“We see new calls for isolationism, for xenophobia. When I speak to young people, I implore them, and I implore you, to reject those calls to pull back,” Mr Obama said.
Joking about Britain’s colonial past, Mr Obama cited a “tea incident” and said that the British had burned down his house - references to the 1773 Boston Tea Party protest and to the burning of the White House in 1814 by British troops.
But he stressed that the two nations had put their quarrels behind them to ensure a more stable and freer world.
Don’t pull back
Mr Obama’s intervention over EU membership was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron but it was not immediately clear how far British voters will hear or heed Obama’s caution over the consequences of leaving the EU in a June 23 referendum. A YouGov poll showed that while British voters think Mr Obama has done a good job as US president, 53 per cent felt it was inappropriate for Obama to express a preference on how Britain should vote, while 35 per cent said it was appropriate.
After a visit to the Globe theatre to mark 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare, Mr Obama answered 10 questions from the youth audience on issues ranging from the peace in Northern Ireland to the rights of non-binary gender individuals. While Mr Obama’s warning about the prospects of a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States led television news broadcasts in Britain, EU membership was not raised during the question-and-answer session that lasted over an hour. Mr Obama’s warning over trade was especially sensitive in Britain because opponents of the EU have argued that the world’s fifth largest economy could prosper by striking bilateral deals if it cut itself free from what they cast as a failed German-dominated experiment in European integration.
US President Barack Obama speaking to British youth at Lindley Hall in London.