Sixteen year-olds could get to vote on whether we stay in the EU after all

David Cameron has offered MPs a vote on extending the franchise

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Sixteen and seventeen-year-olds could be allowed to take part in the EU referendum after the Government said it would let MPs vote on the issue.

David Cameron told parliament that he believed the franchise should not be extended but that he would give MPs the chance to decide after a debate.

"I believe we should stick with the current franchise of 18, but I think the House of Commons should vote," he said at Prime Minister's Questions.

Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party all support giving 16-year-olds the vote.

The Conservatives have a working majority of only 16 MPs meaning if enough Tory MPs side with the opposition parties, young people could be allowed to take part.

16 and 17 year olds already took part in the Scottish independence referendum last year but this would be the first UK-wide referendum in which they participated.

There were signs already last night that some independent-minded Conservative MPs would consider supporting the move.

Tory MP for Totnes Dr Sarah Wollaston said the vote would have “profound consequences” for the future of young people.

 

“Nearly one in four 16-year-olds are expected to live to a hundred; they will be living with consequences of EU referendum far longer than MPs and Lords,” she tweeted.

If the franchise were extended for the vote it could have profound consequences for the result.

Young people are significantly more likely to support EU membership, with 18-24 year olds supporting membership by 80 per cent to 20 per cent.

The same poll, conducted by YouGov, found that people older age cohorts are much less supportive for EU membership.

People over the age of 60 break against the EU by  59 per cent to 41 per cent. Support in intermediate age groups is higher the young the group.

David Cameron has pledged to hold an in-out EU referendum by the end of 2017 after negotiations to change rules on benefits and freedom of movement have concluded.

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