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EU votes at 16: if you're old enough to fight, you're old enough to vote

November 18, 2015 10:56 AM
By Tim Farron MP in The Telegraph

Tim FarronLiberal Democrat lords are aiming to defeat the government on its opposition to letting young people vote in the EU referendum. Here's why

The inconsistencies among some of those who pined longingly for an EU referendum are startling.

One of the most frequent arguments rolled out is that people haven't voted on our membership since 1975.

It is striking that the same people who argue people that generations of Brits "haven't had a say" on the EU are now opposed to giving 16 year olds the right to vote. They seem to want democracy, but only the kind they like - or think will get the result they want.

Sixteen and 17 year olds will have to live with the consequences of this huge decision for many years to come and to not give them a say, is simply, anti-democratic. This is why I support increasing the franchise.

In Scotland 16 and 17 year olds were - rightly - given their chance to decide whether Scotland should remain part of the UK. The political engagement, debate and interest that was ignited by handing the vote to these young people was something both sides of that referendum agree was a highlight of the campaign. This is something I want to see in political discourse throughout Britain.

Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for the right to vote to be extended to 16 year olds across the UK in all elections. But we do so especially for the EU Referendum- especially in light of the lessons from the Scottish Referendum and the lasting importance of this decision.

It is hypocrisy of the worst kind to argue against votes at 16 for the EU referendum. The government accepts that at 16 you are mature enough to serve in the Armed Forces, be married and pay tax, and they should now give these same people the right to vote.

Some opponents to this are now showing how ludicrously out of touch they are: the Tory MP David Nuttall has even claimed that extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds could increase the likelihood of them becoming victims of sexual exploitation.

This is a baffling, offensive, ludicrous argument that shows opponents grasping at straws.

Whether you want Britain to Remain or Leave the European Union, everyone agrees that it is a decision that matters. It is hugely important.

On Wednesday, Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords have tabled an amendment to give the EU Referendum Bill to give 16 and 17 year olds a vote. We hope with cross-party support it will be successful.

It would be wrong to deny our young people the right to have their say, when they have to live with the consequences of whatever it is that we as a country decide.

Read the full article here