Labour's final bid to extend the franchise to 16- and 17-year-olds at the forthcoming EU referendum has been blocked. Peers voted against the proposed amendment to the EU Referendum Bill with a majority of 17 (263 versus 246) in the upper chamber on 14 December.
The move means that the draft legislation could be passed into law within days after there was some legislative back and forth between the Commons and the Lords over lowering the voting age to 16, like the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum.
The decision will also be a boost to the government after ministers claimed the move would have cost taxpayers £6m ($9m) – a figure Labour's Baroness Morgan disputed. Pat McFadden, Labour's shadow Europe minister, said the result was a shame. "The [government] was so determined to deny 16- and 17-year-olds a vote in the EU referendum. It's their country and their future too," he claimed.
Robert Oxley, head of media for the Vote Leave campaign, said the move means a June referendum is "still possible" after David Cameron promised to hold the historic vote before the end of 2017.
The latest opinion poll from ICM, of more than 2,000 voters between 4 and 6 December, put 'remain' four points ahead of 'leave' (43% versus 39%). But another recent survey from YouGov, of more than 4,300 people between 20 and 24 November, put the options neck-and-neck at 41% each.