Britain’s lower house of parliament voted on Tuesday against reducing the voting age for a referendum on EU membership, blocking a move that might have boosted the campaign to stay in the 28-member bloc. Members of parliament voted 303 to 253 to reject a move by the upper chamber, the House of Lords, to lower the voting age to 16 from 18 for the referendum which Prime Minister David Cameron has promised by the end of 2017. The Lords is now unlikely to be able to force through the change after the Commons speaker invoked “financial privilege”, which means that by convention the upper house should not overturn the lower house’s decision.
Some MPs in favour of lowering the age said 16 and 17-year-olds should be able to vote because they would have to live with the referendum’s consequences which could curtail their freedom of movement and complicate working in the bloc.
“The chance to extend the franchise for the EU referendum to 16 and 17 year olds would have led to a more democratic and a more engaging campaign,” said Stephen Gethins, the European affairs spokesman for the opposition Scottish National Party.