By Michael Sercan Daventry
LONDON (AA) – Irish prime minister Enda Kenny will become the first foreign leader to campaign against Brexit in the U.K. when he starts a two-day visit on Thursday.
Kenny will urge Irish citizens to vote to keep Britain inside the European Union in next week’s referendum during visits to Liverpool and Manchester, two cities in northwest England with significant Irish populations.
Irish citizens who are resident in the U.K. are able to vote in next week’s referendum under the terms of a long-standing agreement between the two countries. Citizens of Commonwealth countries like Australia and Pakistan can also vote, provided they are U.K. residents.
Kenny’s spokesman said the visit was “a message from a good friendly neighbor which stresses the mutual benefits of EU membership. It is mainly directed at Irish communities and business interests,” the Irish Independent reported.
But plans for Kenny to be joined on the campaign trail by David Cameron on Friday were abandoned after the U.K. premier pulled out.
The Times of London reported that Cameron cancelled the joint appearance in order to reduce his exposure in northern England, a traditional stronghold for the British opposition Labour Party.
With supporters of Cameron’s Conservative Party deeply divided over Britain’s EU membership, Labour voters are seen as key to securing a vote to remain.
The Republic of Ireland fears a vote for Brexit could threaten the status of the open land border it shares with Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and necessitate the introduction of customs controls.
Britain’s EU referendum will be held on Thursday, June 23.