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Politicians Must Show Confidence in Our Young People and Let Them Vote in the EU Referendum

19/11/2015 13:08 GMT | Updated 19/11/2016 10:12 GMT

The House of Lords last night gave the government a bloody nose on the issue of allowing 16- to 18-year-olds to vote in the EU referendum. This was a major defeat for the government with an 82 vote majority, sending a very clear signal that if the government does not back down in the Commons on this issue, they can look forward to a long and protracted battle.

The fact that over 40 independent peers were convinced by the strength of our argument should make the Prime Minister pause and reconsider.

Peers were convinced that this was a one off exceptional situation. 16-18-year-olds may never have the opportunity again to vote on what this country's relationship with the EU should be. But they will have to live with the consequences of the result longer than any of us, and they are equipped with the knowledge thanks to civic education in school to take that decision.

This is the most informed generation of 16-18 year olds of all time. The generation who are rarely seen without a screen in front of them! Peers were convinced that the practical job of registering these young people could be carried out in time - thanks to clarification from the Electoral Commission and positive noises from the Electoral Administration Association. Scottish peers in particular could simply not find valid and convincing arguments to justify the fact that young people in Scotland were allowed to participate in the Scottish independence referendum, but could not vote in the EU one.

The response and intelligent enthusiasm of young voters in Scotland demonstrated that if you give them the responsibility they will take it seriously, and evidence from Austria where 16-year-olds are allowed to vote has demonstrated that people are more likely to continue to vote if they start at this age.

Accusations that this vote may hold up the date of an EU referendum fell on deaf ears and there was an understanding that the Prime Minister is unlikely to be able to deliver his promised reforms until the New Year. The fact that it is the government themselves who have painted themselves into a corner on the date of the referendum was also understood.

Campaigns will now be run to encourage this age group to put pressure on Conservative MPs to alert them to the fact that denying them a vote in the EU referendum will be noted by this upcoming generation of General Election voters.

Young people are the future of this nation. Politicians need to show that we have confidence in them and that we respect their opinions.

Baroness Eluned Morgan is a Labour peer and shadow foreign office minister