Members of the House of Lords have backed calls to give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to take part in the UK’s EU referendum when it takes place in 2016 or 2017.
The House of Lords voted to amend the European Referendum Bill and was something proposed very strongly by Liberal Democrat members of the House of Lords.
Our view is that the result of the EU referendum will affect everyone in the UK for many years to come. It will affect jobs, and our ability to trade with our international partners. It will change the way that we see ourselves and our attitudes towards our closest neighbours.
16- and 17- year olds were allowed to vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 and it has been a long standing Lib Dem policy to extend this to all elections. 16- and 17- year olds can be taxed, can work, can get married and can be sent to serve their country in the armed forces, so it seems right that they have a say in who runs their country and their local areas.
Lib Dem Peer Alison Suttie led on the proposals and said:
“Young people will have to live with the consequences of the referendum far longer than any of the peers who voted on extending the franchise in the House of Lords last night.”
“No-one who saw the energy that 16 and 17-year-olds brought to the independence referendum in Scotland would agree with those who argue that young people should not get involved in politics. My niece was one of 17-year-olds who took the chance to have their say on the future of her Scotland in the referendum last year. She was informed, passionate and committed to her preferred side of the argument. No one will ever persuade me that Liberal Democrats were wrong to support the extension of the franchise and give her the vote at that poll.” (See her full article here.)
The government has said it was wrong to change the franchise “by the back door” and it would seek to reverse it when the bill returns to the Commons.