Obama To Deliver Speech To British Parliament

President Obama holds talks with British political leaders in London Wednesday. The talks are likely to be dominated by discussions about the economy, Libya and support for Egypt and Tunisia.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

In London today, President Obama delivers a speech to both chambers of the British Parliament. That's an honor usually reserved for British monarchs. And it's expected to be the centerpiece of his six-day European tour.

Mr. Obama spent much of yesterday enjoying the hospitality of Queen Elizabeth, capped off with a state dinner last night at Buckingham Palace.

Well, NPR's Scott Horsley is traveling with the president. Good morning, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Good morning, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So it sounds as if so far the president and Queen Elizabeth are getting along famously.

HORSLEY: They are. They had very kind words for each other over a toast at last night's state dinner. The president talked about the queen's decades of service to her country, spanning the terms, he said, of a dozen presidents and prime ministers. And the queen in turn talked about the close ties between the U.S. and Britain, including cultural ties. She mentioned the large number of American musicals the British have enjoyed. And I have to say, you can see that all around the theater district where we're staying - there's nothing but American musicals playing around here.

Mary Louise, yesterday we heard from one of those unnamed palace spokesman about the queen's relationship with the Obamas. He said - and I quote - there is genuine, genuine - and I really mean this - a genuine warmth between the two families.

KELLY: Well, so that's his meetings with the queen. Has he had any chance on this visit to interact with ordinary Britons?

HORSLEY: Well, not a great deal. It wasn't like Ireland, where he shook a lot of hands and signed a lot of autographs. People did line up on the streets here to watch his motorcade pass by, but most of the day yesterday was in these formal settings. He and the prime minister did sneak off to a school yesterday afternoon, though, a sort of British charter school, and they did get to meet with some students. And they even played a little ping-pong. They were given a sound beating at the hand of a couple of 16-year-olds.

KELLY: So tell us more about what's on the agenda for today and the speech to parliament. We mentioned that this is expected to be the centerpiece of his trip. What's the message going to be for Britain and for the rest of Europe?

HORSLEY: Well, I expect we're going to hear a combination of national ego-stroking and also a bit of bill collecting. The president is stressing the vital role that Europe has played and that he hopes will continue to play in global affairs. But along with that pat on the back comes an insistence that Europe shoulder more of the load that perhaps the U.S. might have carried in recent years.

We've seen that in the way President Obama has approached Libya, insisting that NATO and not the United States take the lead. Here's Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

Mr. BEN RHODES (Deputy National Security Adviser): There's a lot of talk about other emerging powers, and that talk, you know, leads to questions as to whether or not the United States and Europe are going to continue to play the role in the world that they have as world leaders. But I think if you look at it, there is no other alliance that assumes the burdens that we assume on behalf of peace and security and that invest as much as we do in enforcement of international law and in global development.

HORSLEY: And that's a message that the president will continue to carry to other European leaders when he attends the G-8 Summit in France, starting tomorrow, and then later in the week when he meets with central European leaders in Poland.

KELLY: And just wrapping up the trip today in Britain - he's also sitting down with Prime Minister Cameron. Yesterday, you mentioned they were playing table tennis. Safe to assume they're moving on to more weighty matters of state today.

HORSLEY: Yes. You know, the two men wrote an op-ed yesterday that said they see the world in the same way, but there are some potential friction points for them to talk about. Both of the leaders have talked about transitioning out of Afghanistan, but the pace of troop withdrawal could be an issue. Again, the division of labor in Libya, enforcing the U.N. resolutions there, is likely to come up.

And then there's the two men's approach to their own domestic economies. Prime Minister Cameron has pushed tough austerity measures here in Britain. The Obama administration also says it's committed to deficit reduction, but that it doesn't want to sacrifice the nascent economic recovery.

KELLY: All right. That's NPR's Scott Horsley, who's traveling with the president on his European tour. Thanks very much, Scott.

HORSLEY: Good to talk with my, Mary Louise.

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