Tuesday

9th Aug 2022

Lords back vote for 16 and 17-year olds in UK referendum

  • Tory party has vowed to overturn the decision in lower house (Photo: parliament.uk)

The House of Lords has backed giving 16 and 17-year olds the right to vote in the UK’s referendum on EU membership.

Peers, mostly from the opposition Labour and Liberal parties, backed the decision by 293 against 211 on Wednesday (18 November).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

With surveys indicating that young people are more EU-friendly, the move was welcomed by politicians hostile to a British EU exit.

Hilary Benn, Labour’s shadow foreign minister, told the BBC: “Young adults should be able to have their say in the European referendum; after all it is about their future too.”

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal party, noted: “This is a victory for democracy. We are giving over a million people a voice on their future. The government must now listen and act. David Cameron cannot turn his back on 1.5 million young adults.”

But the ruling Conservative party of PM David Cameron vowed to overturn it in the House of Commons.

“The House of Commons has voted on three occasions in recent months against dropping the voting age from 18 - including overturning a Lords amendment just yesterday … The government will re-affirm this clear position when the bill returns to the elected chamber [the Commons],” John Penrose, a Tory junior minister, said.

Lord Faulks, the Tory justice minister, noted: “We fear changing the franchise, including this particular change, could … seriously undermine the legitimacy of the referendum.”

The eurosceptic Ukip party also criticised Wednesday’s decision.

“Young people in Britain are no fools, but those below the age of 18 do not have to pay taxes, while being subject to huge amounts of pro-EU propaganda in educational establishments,” Joe Jenkins, the head of the party’s youth wing, told press.

British officials in recent weeks briefed EU counterparts that Cameron favours a June 2016 date for the EU vote, which is due, by law, before the end of 2017.

But UK pundits warn that if the referendum bill becomes subject to a tug-of-war between the two houses of parliament it could delay the event until autumn next year.

The British electoral commission would also need extra time to register and process young voters.

For his part, EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said in a speech in Brussels the same day he is confident of a positive UK outcome.

“Brexit is not going to happen … I have just spent three years avoiding Grexit, I am not going to spend three years of my life facilitating Brexit,” the Luxembourg politician noted.

The bad news for Ukip also comes amid a sharp dip in financial donations to the party.

According to British public records, the party received just £49,334 (€70,445) between 1 July and 30 September, following its disappointing performance in May general elections.

The figure represents a five-year low and is far smaller than the £2.2million it got in the three months prior to July.

According to a study by King’s College in London there are 1,534,192 voters aged 16 and 17 in the UK.

A recent survey by pollster ICM said 53 percent of 18 to 34-year olds want Britain to stay in the EU, compared to 39 percent in the 55 or above age group.

Britain already lowered the voting age for the Scottish referendum last year.

Brexit talks must get political, or face delay

Leaders at Thursday's summit will take stock of Brussels-London talks on the in/out referendum, but real negotiations can't start until Britain submits detailed wish list of EU reforms.

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Italy back in chaos, as Draghi quits over 5-Star snub

Italy was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Thursday as prime minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a key ally within his grand coalition government boycotted a parliamentary vote.

MEP accused of 'disrespecting' female moderator

Some 100 representatives of civil society organisations, including Transparency International EU and Oxfam, accuse German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer of disrespecting a moderator because she was a woman of colour and want him reprimanded.

Column

Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.

Opinion

Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us