Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard radio programmes, think tanks, economy and finance experts and politicians give their views on whether or not the UK should remain a member of the European Union.

No one really knows what the long-term impact of a decision either way will mean for the United Kingdom, though leaving the EU is likely to lead to a period of disruption for the UK which we may or may not recover from.

Missing entirely from the debate though, is the voice of the child.

In the UK, children make up nearly one-quarter of the population (around 15 million), and as a group, will be the most affected by today’s vote. Despite its uneasy relationship with child welfare matters, the EU has made important contributions protecting the rights of children , including legislation to tackle child sexual abuse, child abuse online and child pornography. Those in favour of Brexit argue that such laws can be implemented at national level, but sceptics are not convinced that the UK government would make this a priority in the aftermath of a winning vote to leave the EU. In the past, the EU has been able to hold our government accountable for failings in child welfare, ensuring the UK fulfils its child rights obligations. Revoking our membership could strip away this added level of accountability.

There are other areas of concern, too. Children’s hospitals are worried that leaving the EU would prevent them from accessing much-needed funds for research, development and innovation. The likely period of instability, which some economists believe could last for at least two years, may magnify the effects of current austerity measures which would affect parents and their children, significantly. Critical levels of poverty, which have been an alarming feature of austerity in the last few years, could also rise if the UK revokes its membership, with the removal of EU funding which has been integral to fighting child-centric economic and social disparities.

Children today are well versed in how to source information, and come to their own conclusions about the world around them. In a poll conducted by Children’s newspaper First News, 71 per cent of more than 6,500 seven to 14-year-olds backed Remain.

Today, the UK’s 16 and 17 year old’s have been denied the right to be heard in this Referendum, despite strong campaigning efforts to be included. Whilst it is almost impossible to predict what the future will look like for our children, ensuring their voice is heard in this debate is crucial, and as voters we have a responsibility to consider that voice, and amplify it. 

We’ve added some thought-provoking articles below: