A jovial Barack Obama took diverse questions from young Britons at a town-hall style event on the second day of his UK visit (23 April). "Getting trade deals done is tough," Obama declared in a thinly veiled swipe at Eurosceptics who argue that the UK could negotiate a trade agreement with the EU in the event of a Brexit.
The EU referendum is firmly in the media's spotlight, after Obama intervened in the debate on 22 April, much to the dismay of the Leave camp, who have accused him of meddling in British affairs. But despite the Brexit vote dominating the news agenda across the UK, young Britons engaged the US president on diverse topics including his leadership style, climate change, LGBT rights, police brutality across the Atlantic and how he sought a middle ground between intransigent political opponents.
"My primary message is going to be to reject pessimism and cynicism, know that progress is possible and that problems can be solved," said Obama. "Progress requires the harder path of breaking down barriers and building bridges, and retaining the values of tolerance that our nations have worked to defend."
Black Lives Matter 'effective'
Discussing the role of activism in highlighting racial issues in the US, Obama said: "What Black Lives Matter is doing now to bring attention to the problem of a criminal justice system that is sometimes not treating people fairly based on race or reacting to shootings of individuals by police officers has been really effective in bringing attention to problems."
But bringing attention to an issue is not enough, Obama warned young audience members. He said that after securing a seat at the table, diplomacy is a vital next step.
"Once you've highlighted an issue and brought it to people's attention and shined a spotlight and elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you, then you can't just keep on yelling at them," he said.
"You can't refuse to meet because that might compromise the purity of your position. The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table, get you in the room and then to start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved. You then have a responsibility to prepare an agenda that is achievable."
Brexit nearly absent in town hall
Obama has made his position on Britain's continued membership of the EU clear, writing in the Telegraph that, "The European Union doesn't moderate British influence – it magnifies it."
Obama has come under heavy fire from the Leave campaign, who have accused him of "hypocrisy", of being a "lame duck" president, and of doing Downing Street's bidding.
On 23 April, prominent Leave campaigner Boris Johnson said: "Over the last few days, nobody on that side of the argument has been able to answer the key point that I have been making which is that it is inconsistent, perverse and yes, it is hypocritical of the United States to tell us that we should sacrifice more of our independence than they would ever dream of doing themselves."
The US leader also visited the Globe Theatre in London where he witnessed scenes from Hamlet, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Obama is also set to meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the Royal Horticultural Halls during his UK trip the White House said. The timing of the meeting is yet to be confirmed.