Sunday, 24 May 2015

Europe Referendum: About Time

My 18th birthday was in late May 1975, which therefore allowed me to vote in the referendum held on 5 June of that year. 

But anyone just a few days younger than me will have not had a chance to do so since.

In 1975 we were invited to vote on the country's continued membership of what was then known as the "Common Market" or the European Economic Community. 

Now, the European Union is an all together more sophisticated and encompassing organisation.

I have long argued - and have been on public record since 2008 - that we should be given the chance to vote again on our continued membership. This is not motivated by any strong anti-Europe sentiment, but more that such a fundamental arrangement should have a "sunset clause" which demands that we should always have the opportunity to renew our mandate, say after every 25 or 30 years.

The fact that the 40th anniversary of the last mandate is fast approaching and that a succession of party political general election manifestos have promised to hold such a vote, but then failed to do so, has been damaging to politics generally and governments in particular.

I am therefore pleased that Harriet Harman has now brought the Labour Party better into line with public opinion and committed the party to supporting an "in/out" ballot before the end of 2017. 

And, when the time comes, just as some 58 and 59 year olds will be allowed to vote on Europe for the first time, we should also include 16 year olds in the vote.

We should debate the issues, form the arguments, and not let Westminster tell us they know best!

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