1.5 million young people blocked from voting in the EU Referendum

The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are disappointed to see the Government have blocked the Lords proposal to include 16 and 17 year olds a vote in the “In Out” EU Referendum due to be taken in 2017. The block comes after a sustained campaign calling on the Government to follow the precedent set by the Scottish Referendum which saw record levels of voting from young people.

The latest setback in the House of Commons saw Members of Parliament vote 303 to 253 to reject the Lords amendment to the European Union Referendum Bill in an attempt to block any further moves to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote despite the Votes at 16 Coalition’s continuous calls for their inclusion since the bill was tabled by the Government in March 2015.

Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “It’s really sad to see the Government have blocked the Lords amendment which was set to see 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds enfranchised for the EU Referendum! Time and time again we’re having to go backwards and forwards on this debate and it’s about time we did what was right for young people living in the UK! This is a late but necessary change in our voting system”

In reaction to the Government’s rejection of the amendment, Jon Foster, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The Government have now resorted to using the cost of the introduction of votes at 16 as their main argument for not lowering the voting age for the EU Referendum but surely when young people are knocking on the door of democracy its worth every penny of investment! Young people should be at the table for this historical vote and it’s now clear from the precedent set by Scottish 16 and 17 year olds that young people are more than ready to take part!”

The British Youth Council has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds for 17 years and we’ll be continuing to push the Lords to rebel against despite the Commons’ ‘financial privilege’. As noted in UCL’s Report ‘Demystifying Financial Privilege’ the Lords could still table similar amendments in an attempt to force the bill to include a lower voting age.

Support across the UK for votes at 16 is building up, particular after last years Scottish Referendum which saw 80% voter registration and 75% voter turnout among 16 and 17 year olds, discarding arguments reporting a lack of appetite for involvement among young people. The Youth Select Committee’s report which was released in the Autumn of 2015 ruled that now was the time to implement measures for all public elections and referendums and further to that we have 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. Not to mention the clear support from the Scottish Government, National Assembly of Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly and a growing number of English local authorities which it is making it untenable to deny 16 and 17 year olds the vote during any other elections or public referendums.

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