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Barack Obama drops into No10 for surprise visit on his way through London

Former US president Barack Obama popped into Downing Street on Monday for private talks with Rishi Sunak.

Mr Obama, who served in the White House from 2009 to 2017, smiled and waved at members of the press before he entered No 10 shortly after 3pm.

His visit was understood to be a courtesy call as he was in London.

Mr Obama and Mr Sunak met for around an hour, mostly one-on-one, over cups of tea. They discussed a range of subjects including AI.

Mr Obama left No10, accompanied by the US Ambassador to Britain Jane Hartley.

One broadcaster shouted out: “Why should we care about democracy in Russia?”

Former US President Barack Obama waves as he arrives for a courtesy visit to 10 Downing Street (AP)
Former US President Barack Obama waves as he arrives for a courtesy visit to 10 Downing Street (AP)

The former president responded: “I’m tempted..,” before moving, smiling, towards the car waiting for him.

Mr Obama was due to meet up with long-time friend David Lammy, the shadow Foreign Secretary, and his wife Nicola Green for dinner.

Mr Obama angered some Tories when he warned during the 2016 referendum campaign on Brexit that Britain would be at the “back of the queue” for a free trade deal if it splintered away from the European Union.

But the then president has proved right with still no sign of a free trade deal between the UK and America, despite leading Brexiteers having argued that such a pact would be easy.

Mr Obama’s visit, which would have come amid tight security, caused an immediate stir in Westminster.

But it was far less surprising than when Bill Clinton, the year after he had left the White House, turned up at Labour’s annual rally in Blackpool in 2002 and popped into the local McDonald’s restaurant.

Local people going in to buy a burger or other food were stunned to see the former US president there.

Mr Clinton posed with staff, as he enjoyed a drink.

He delivered a barn-storming speech at Labour’s annual conference that year, around half way through Tony Blair’s New Labour premiership.

Mr Obama addressed the joint Houses of Parliament during a State Visit to the UK in May 2011 and also flipped burgers with David Cameron during a barbecue in the garden of No10.

Former US president Barack Obama with United States ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley (PA Wire)
Former US president Barack Obama with United States ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley (PA Wire)

He told the hundreds of MPs, peers, staff and journalists gathered in the historic Westminster Hall: “I have known few greater honours than the opportunity to address the Mother of Parliaments at Westminster Hall.  I am told that the last three speakers here have been the Pope, Her Majesty the Queen, and Nelson Mandela -- which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke.”

He added: “I come here today to reaffirm one of the oldest, one of the strongest alliances the world has ever known.  It’s long been said that the United States and the United Kingdom share a special relationship.

“Of course, all relationships have their ups and downs.  Admittedly, ours got off on the wrong foot with a small scrape about tea and taxes.

“There may also have been some hurt feelings when the White House was set on fire during the War of 1812.  But fortunately, it’s been smooth sailing ever since.”

Mr Obama’s visit, though, comes amid some trans-Atlantic tensions over the Ukraine war and fears that Donald Trump, if he wins another term in the White House, would dramatically scale back support for Kyiv in its fight against Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Republicans are currently blocking a huge new aid package for Ukraine.

Former US president Barack Obama walks with United States ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley, leave following a meeting at 10 Downing Street (PA Wire)
Former US president Barack Obama walks with United States ambassador to the United Kingdom Jane Hartley, leave following a meeting at 10 Downing Street (PA Wire)

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron warned US Republicans in mid-February not to show “the weakness displayed against Hitler” as he urged American legislators to pass a bill including the additional support for Ukraine.

His remarks were slammed by some Republicans including Marjorie Taylor Greene who told a broadcaster: “I really don’t care what David Cameron has to say.

“I think that’s rude name-calling and I don’t appreciate that type of language. David Cameron needs to worry about his own country and frankly he can kiss my ass.”

During Mr Obama’s 2011 State visit, his presidential motorcade was fined for not paying the congestion charge.

A £120 penalty was imposed after the US authorities failed to pay the then £10 levy on time.

The US authorities escaped a fine for “The Beast”, the president’s high-security limousine, as the congestion charge cameras were unable to record its number plate as it was travelling slowly, close to other vehicles in Mr Obama’s motorcade.

Barack Obama outside Downing Street in 2009 (Getty Images)
Barack Obama outside Downing Street in 2009 (Getty Images)

Only one of the cars in the convoy is understood to have been issued with a fine, which the Americans refused to pay.

The American Embassy at the time defended the refusal by US diplomats to pay the C-charge insisting it was “wholly in accordance” with the 1960 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which a spokesman said “prohibits the imposition of this sort of tax on diplomatic missions”.

The US authorities have not paid C-charge fines totalling millions.