Pressure mounts to allow 16/17 participation in the EU Referendum

British Youth Council calls on young people to “Lobbatweet” their MPs now.

Pressure is mounting on David Cameron and the Government to allow 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in the “In Out” EU Referendum. Harriet Harman MP, Leader of the Opposition, used Prime Ministers Question time to call for votes at 16. “Why won’t [the Prime Minister] let 16 and 17 year olds vote? This is about the future of our country. They did in the Scottish Referendum, it’s their future too” she said. The Prime Minister replied “on the issue of 16 and 17 year olds I believe this house should vote on that issue”. The British Youth Council responded by appealing to all young people in favour to “Lobbatweet” at their MPs now, asking where they stand, and to back reform. Those in favour are listed on the votesat16 website where young people can check their MPs view. “The more who tweet – the more the undecided MPs will realise it’s not just politicians who favour a change – we want it too.”

This follows a debate on EU Referendum Bill yesterday which saw cross-party support for lowering the voting age. Labour’s Hillary Benn, SNP’s Philippa Whitford and the Liberal Democrats Tom Brake among others came forward to support the campaign following Green MP, Caroline Lucas’, initial plea to the Foreign Secretary: “I want to press the Foreign Secretary again on the question of extending the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds. The answer he gave about why we should not do it-because it is an issue of national importance-is the main reason he should do it.”

Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “I’m delighted to hear the issue of lowering the voting age has reached the dispatch box during Prime Ministers questions. The case for lowering the voting age in the EU Referendum is mounting at speed and the precedent set by young Scots last year only strengthens the argument for the inclusion of 16 and 17 year olds in the EU Referendum. MPs from across all nations of the UK are coming out in support of lowering the voting age and the issue cannot be ignored for any longer!”

The British Youth Council, which has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds since 1998, have called for a meeting with the Prime Minister to put forward their case on the voting age for the EU referendum.

In the open letter to the Prime Minister on Monday 25th May 2015, Mita Desai, Chair, British Youth Council called on the Government to follow the precedent set by the Scottish referendum and includes 16 and 17 year olds in the EU referendum ballot. She added: “We’ve been knocking on the door of democracy for decades – let us in and we will show we are just as able and willing as the young people in Scotland proved to be when faced with a similar historic, single issue and long term vote.”

The British Youth Council strongly believes that after decades of changes in our attitudes and vales resulting in amendments to the enfranchisement of more and more people, like women in 1918 and 18-24 year olds in 1969, that lowering the voting age is a late but necessary change in our voting system. Proof that the UK is ready for votes at 16 is mounting up, with the Youth Select Committee report released last year, ruling that now was the time to implement measures for all public elections and referendums. This coupled with the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, which after careful analysis of the Scottish Referendum outlines what should be considered in the event the franchise is amended to include 16 and 17 year olds means we have both the demand and expertise to repeat this again for the EU Referendum.

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