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Lords Back Giving 16- And 17-Year-Olds The Vote In The EU Referendum

It is yet another defeat for the government in the House of Lords.

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The House of Lords has voted in favour of giving 16- and 17-year-olds the vote in the upcoming referendum on EU membership.

The government is opposed to allowing under-18s to take part in the referendum, which will take place before 2017, but Labour and Lib Dem peers backed the amendment and inflicted another government defeat in the House of Lords with 293 votes to 211.

If the amendment is accepted in the House of Commons, it will allow over a million more teenagers to vote in the referendum, which is expected to take place next year.

Labour peer Baroness Morgan of Ely, who put forward the amendment, said the referendum was the "one chance" for young people to have a say on EU membership, and pointed to teenagers who participated in the Scottish referendum in 2014 as evidence that 16- and 17-year-olds deserve a say.

"Young people are the future of this nation and this is their one chance for them to have a say in this country's relationship with the European Union," she said. "It's an exceptional case.

"They will have to live with the consequences of this result for longer than anyone. Let's show them that we have...confidence in them, that we respect them and their opinions, and let's give them a vote in this EU referendum."

Those opposed to the amendment were mainly made up of Conservative peers, along with some crossbenchers such as the Earl of Listowel, who warned that giving teenagers the vote could lead to the rise of another Hitler.

Summing up the government case, Tory peer Lord Faulks said giving 16- and 17-year-olds the vote could "seriously undermine" the EU referendum and be seen as a move to favour one side of the debate.

"A change of this sort needs a substantial piece of legislation," said Lord Faulks. "It is a very important change. We have decided that the appropriate franchise is the one that has pertained satisfactorily in previous referenda, in previous general elections, one that pertains in every single country in the EU except Austria.

"There may come a time when when we lower the age to 16, there may be a debate to be had – this is not the moment for this debate."

The amendment will now be considered in the House of Commons.

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at jamie.ross@buzzfeed.com.

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