The narrow referendum vote to Leave the EU is already having damaging consequences for the prosperity, internal unity and influence of our country in the world. It will be even worse if we crash out in March 2019 without a deal.
I am supporting amendments to the EU withdrawal Bill to ensure our sovereign Parliament has the final say and for a meaningful vote next year on the terms negotiated. If we leave, those most profoundly affected will be our young people who will suffer the consequences for decades to come. Yet although they did have a vote in the 2014 Scottish Referendum, 16 and 17 year olds were not allowed to vote in the EU Referendum.
The leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Ruth Davidson is now a “fully paid-up member of the votes at 16 club” and the Welsh Labour Government is currently exploring ways to extend the franchise to young people there. On November 3rd the House of Commons debates Jim McMahon’s Private Members Bill to reduce the voting age to 16. It requires Returning Officers to register new voters and schools to provide education on democracy and citizenship.
Extending the franchise will help increase turnout by inspiring young people to participate. I am delighted that the Boundary Commission has decided to reverse its previous plans and will now keep Ilford South constituency intact. I would be even happier if 16 and 17 year olds living in Ilford South were also able to vote.