Opinium’s latest voting intention poll has topline figures of CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 6%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%. The seven point Conservative lead is much tighter than we’ve seen in other recent polls, which have almost all had double-figure Tory leads. While the lead has dropped in this poll, I suspect the difference is methodological somehow – most of Opinium’s recent polls have had Tory leads that are smaller than those from other companies. One of the results of the 2015 polling error and polling companies’ efforts to correct them is that we can’t really tell for sure which are right. Is it that some companies haven’t done enough to correct the errors of the past, or others who have done too much?

Given I’ve flagged up the increase in Lib Dem support in the last three polls I should also point out the absence of one here, they are down one point. We’ve had four polls since the Richmond by-election, two showing a small increase, one a small drop, one a substantial increase. Taking an average across the four polls, a very modest impact on national levels of Lib Dem support. Full tabs are here.

The same poll had a couple of questions for Keiran Pedley – the first asked people if they preferred a Brexit where Britain left completely, but got a harsh deal meaning the economy suffers, unemployment increases and there’s less money for public services… or a Brexit where Britain remains in some EU institutions, has freedom of movement, is subject to the EU courts and so on. Faced with that stark choice, people went with the “soft Brexit” option by 41% to 35%. However, it does, of course, assume that people can be convinced that a “hard Brexit” option would result in the economy suffering, unemployment increasing and so on. We’ve just had a salutary lesson that lots of experts telling people that leaving the EU would have negative economic effects is not necessarily effective. I think the most we can say is that it suggests if people can be convinced that a hard Brexit would damage the economy, jobs and public services and that a soft Brexit would not, then they would prefer a soft Brexit… but that “if” is doing a lot of work.

Keiran also asked two questions about a second referendums, both finding a majority of people do not want one. The first asked if people would like a second referendum after terms are agreed, the second asked if there should be a second referendum if it becomes clear that Brexit is damaging the economy. In both cases 33% said yes, 52% said no – suggesting that a declining economy wouldn’t necessarily make people want to reconsider the issue.

That second question is key in a lot of current discussion about public attitudes to Brexit. It is clear from current polling that that has not been any significant shift in public opinion since the referendum, most people think the govt is obliged to deliver on the referendum result and that most people do not currently want a second referendum. The hopes of some of those who would like to stay in the European Union are pinned upon the idea that as the negotiation period progresses the impact on the British economy will begin to be felt and at that point the public will change their mind, want to stay after all, and therefore be open to the idea of a second referendum.

Whether there is a chance of this happening is very tricky to measure in a poll. It’s asking people to predict how their opinions might change as a result of future economic developments, when respondents themselves don’t know the answer. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the economy in coming years, and we certainly don’t know what the public will attribute it too. It would be naive to think that an economic downturn will necessarily be blamed on Brexit by those people who supported Brexit. People view new events and information through the prism of their existing views, and many Brexit supporters will blame it on other economic factors, or on the rest of the EU trying to punish us, or pro-Europeans wanting Brexit to fail…. or take it as short-term pain that will be outweighed by later gain (in the same way, many pro-EU people will be liable to blame things on Brexit that have nothing to do with it. This is not a comment about supporters of one side or the other, but on human nature in general).

986 Responses to “Opinium – CON 38, LAB 31, LDEM 6, UKIP 13”

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  1. Pete B
    I think you forgot the January mass outbreak of Ebola in council offices required to cause hundreds of council elections (presumably all in Met Councils to avoid the 6 month rule) in March!

  2. Re Scottish elections:
    I do find the apparent switch from Labour to Tory in Scotland, with some fall but not so much in SNP vote, rather surprising..

    Apologies if this has all been discussed before, but is this really Lab to SNP and SNP to Tory??

    Also I wonder if this will translate into a UK General Election. I can imagine Labour voters preferring Tory to SNP in Holyrood, but surely it is very much against their interests in the UK?

  3. Andrew111
    I thought you were implying that there weren’t any local elections this year, so I had to check.

    There are 27 English County Councils plus a number of Unitary authorities and loads in Scotland and Wales.

  4. John B

    Presumably Gallup were more interested in people’s reactions to “getting more foreigners” – regardless of the reasons for their migration. There seems to be much confusion between the categories in the public mind anyway – fuelled by a number of the London press outlets

    I wouldn’t disagree with your analysis on the council elections here.

    The opportunity to raise council tax is limited to 3%, so there’s not a lot of flexibility for parties to argue over.

    However, it seems a likely reason for some folk being unwilling to give 2nd preference votes from SLab/SCon to SCon/SLab as they are likely to be at the opposite ends of a very small spectrum of change. Probably SLab saying 3% rise : SCon saying 0% rise.

  5. Andrew111

    As you point out, there’s always a bit of churn in polling changes.

    However, the polling for Westminster, Holyrood and now this “internal polling” for councils all show the same pattern.

    it seems certain that the initial huge drop in SLab support came after the indyref, with large numbers of their Yes voters moving to SNP or Green (to a lesser extent).

    Of their remaining Unionist voters, many moved to voting Tory in the 2015 & 2016 elections, as they seemed the better protector of the UK Union.

    The leaks about this internal poll suggest that around 25% of that much reduced cohort that voted SLab in May have now switched to SCon.

    While one always has to be wary of leaked polls (it could be a massive damage limitation exercise) the pattern of movement seems to be consistent.

  6. JOSEPH1832
    If the government requires an Act of Parliament to notify under A.50, then the relevant Act can simply authorise the same for A.127 as a precaution.

    But triggering A50 has been all but agreed by Lab, so will pass. Getting approval for A127 will not be nearly so easy and Lab will have no reason to support May. Very few Con rebels would be needed to thwart her.


    OLDNAT may well be right that one of the firms challenging may be hopeless, but it would seem slightly odd that both firms challenging are equally feeble.

    Re A126, giving the number of footnotes used in the text [some going back to the ECSC], I suspect that the use of European Economic Community is just shorthand and should probably have been changed to EU anyway.

    A128 seems more relevant in saying:
    Any European State becoming a member of the Community shall, and the Swiss Confederation or any European State becoming a member of EFTA may, apply to become a party to this Agreement. It shall address its application to the EEA Council.

    The shall rather implies that each EU member state must apply to become a party to the agreement, just as A127 requires notification from the member state concerned.

    NB: To save searching for my previous post which linked to it, here’s the link to the AGREEMENT ON THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA.

  8. @Peter Cairns

    Yes Labour loses hundreds of seats in local elections in the merry month of May, but general election is not called.

    In France the National Front loses presidential election to Conservatives (Republicans) in second ballot. In Germany Merkel forms coalition with FDP and weakened SDP.

    Back to the UK, and despite Labour’s trouncing in the local elections the Conservatives lose some support through a wave of satire in the media, and support rises for – and this is the difficult part – the LDs, except in the (English) midlands where Conservative support holds up.

    Possible future Conservative losses in the south-west of England make the 2020 election looks tighter than expected for the Conservatives, but UKIP support starts to rise in the north of England…

  9. @Oldnat @Barbazenzero @Patrickbrian

    The term European Community in the document:

    The Treaty has been amended 4 times with the removal of Switzerland and the 3 enlargements since it was signed in 1992 following Maastricht. @Patrickbrian the formal name of Maastricht is “The Treaty On European Union”. It established the EU and European Citizenship and subsequent treaties are effectively amendments to this treaty.

    The key provision is Article 126 setting out the territorial limits of the EEA.

    @Barbazenzero points out article 128. This sets out how NEW members of the EU must apply to join the treaty as they would now fall under the territorial limits of the area imposed in article 126(1).
    As BZ says if you are a member of the EU you must become a member of the EEA. An example being Croatia’s accession in 2013.

    Article 128 also gives Switzerland scope to join in the future and any European country that becomes a new member of EFTA may also apply.

    The UK’s membership is a consequence of being in the EU.

    If the UK withdraws from the EU it automatically ceases to be a member of the EEA as stipulated in Article 126. It would then need to apply to join EFTA and then re-apply to the EEA as stated under Article 128.

    Article 127 is a provision for those states who have previously joined outside of the EU who wish to withdraw from the treaty or indeed the EU wishing to withdraw itself.

    The lawyers are trying to argue that the UK is a separate contracting party (as it is named in the preamble) outside of the EU and therefore Article 127 applies.

    “Contracting Parties” is defined in Article 2 as concerning the Community and the EC Member States, the Community and
    the EC Member States, or the Community, or the EC Member States. The meaning to be attributed to this expression in each case is to be deduced from the relevant provisions of this Agreement and from the respective competences of the Community and the EC Member States as they follow from the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community”

    The key term is “the meaning to be attributed to this expression in each case is to be deduced from the relevant provisions of this Agreement.” Thus the provisions as stipulated in Articles 126 and 128 means the EU must be the contracting party in Article 127 and not the UK.

    @OLDNAT I finished studying contract law 25 years ago so I may be rusty but I find it difficult to interpret these provisions any other way. It’s hardly written in deep legalise.

    I can only surmise that those who have brought the actions think they have a case and the lawyers have agreed to bring an action on their behalf because they’ll make fat fees and it’s free PR for the firms involved.

    It also adds to the political pressure and to the “fog of war” going on between leave and remain.

  10. Pete,

    No it was just a bit of a lame joke since you seemed to have moved the local elections from May to March…

    Then I realised that to have a rash of by-elections in March they would have to be outside the areas having local elections in May… So it got more convoluted!

  11. R Huckle,
    I dont know whether 2017 will finally see some action over Brexit which will therefore precipitate consequences for parties. Certainly there is a growing sense of impatience that nothing is happening, but as I see it ‘nothing happening’ is the main government plan.

    The two year Brexit timetable leaves plenty of scope for at least a year more prevarication, even if article 50 goes off on schedule. If there are legal complications, even that might not happen in 2017, and then political impetus to get things finished before the 2020 election might change to avoiding having them finished before the election.

    I have always thought the current environmental legislation, particularly relating to cutting carbon emissions was wildly optimistic and wholly predicated on a good economic outlook to finance its monetary costs. I can see us building new coal fired power stations, despite having only just demolished some.

  12. My 10 predictions for 2017 as I only have 10 hours odd until New Year down under.

    1. Labour will lose the Copeland by-election to the Tories

    2. There will be at least one (and possibly more) Labour MP resignations forcing problematic by-elections for old Corby.

    3. If the government wins the Supreme Court case on triggering Art 50 using the Royal Prerogative, the Government will trigger Article 50 by March 31st. If the government loses the SC case and is unable to get the necessary legislation through both houses of Parliament to trigger Art 50 during 2017 then there will be a General Election sometime this year.

    4. IF there is a general election in 2017 and Corbyn is still in charge then Labour at some point during or leading up to the campaign will poll 23% or less. Labour’s eventual share of the vote will be less than in 1983. This prediction is good for any general election that Corbyn leads Labour into be it 2018,19 or 20.

    5. The Scottish SC appeal demanding Scottish Parliamentary approval for the triggering of Art 50 will fail and leave egg over Sturgeon’s face.

    6. Labour will lose lots of seats in the May local elections and take an absolute hammering in Scotland. Kezia Dugdale will resign shortly afterwards.

    7. The Tories will start the process of repealing the FTPA or they may instead try to champion this FTPA repeal bill http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/fixedtermparliamentsrepeal.html that’s been introduced in the Lords. Alternatively they will try to put legislation in place that can call an earlier election in 2018/9 if need be bypassing the FTPA in this Parliament.

    8. The government will win the High Court case over EEA Article 127 even if they appoint Noddy and Big Ears to argue the case on their behalf.

    9. There will be at least one resignation from the Cabinet.

    10. Tancred’s temper will get the better of him and he’ll trade thinly veiled insults with S Thomas and others. (Okay that one’s a gimme so I’ll also throw in the Duchess of Cambridge will get another bun in the oven.)

  13. barbazenzero (et al.)
    re article 128,
    The fact this says new members of the european community must apply to be members of the EEA would seem to make a distinction between those nations who were part of the EEC at the time the EEA agreement was created, and those who might be members in the future. If EEC membership does not grant automatic membership of EEA, then logically nor does departing the EEC remove membership. If being an EEC member does not grant EEA membership automatically now, then nor did it at the time of original signing.

    Thus article 126 might be more likely to be interpreted as a purely geographic designator, meaning that all countries who were members of the EEC at the time of signing were granted enduring membership even though not named individually.

  14. Sea Change, re your prediction 9, a cabinet resignation.

    It occurs there is a possibility it might be May. She has a reputation for being surprisingly principled and might find herself in a position where she cannot reconcile party differences, or in good faith present whatever decision cabinet finally arrives at to the nation. Some while ago someone suggested she might end by coming to the house and recomend rejecting the deal negotiated by her own government.

    My prediction is for continued stalling by the government in announcing any firm position. To this end protracted legal cases are to be expected.

  15. @Danny That does not make sense the agreement has been amended on multiple occasions with every new enlargement of the EU. The Articles are explicit and I cannot see any scope for your logic.

    I’ve been doing some research and found this
    https://www.monckton.com/brexit-european-economic-area-eea-membership-article-127-eea/ which pretty much follows the same line of thinking I had when reading the EEA treaty. They do a more thorough argument of the points. Their conclusion is the same, Article 126 is the important one and means we would have to notify the parties that we no longer party to the agreement unless we rejoined EFTA.

  16. @Danny – Well if May resigns who can hold the Tories together?

  17. sea change.

    1.I agree totally about A127. it is the legal equivalent of custers last stand by the remainers;
    2.I think that the Gov has lost the RP argument in the SC and will require legislation in both houses but will do so by the deadline date
    3.I object to the suggestion that i trade thinly veiled insults with Tancred…..They are not thinly veiled at all ! Besides we enjoy it.
    4. May i wish all posters a happy and prosperous new year and look forward to another year as momentous as 2016.

  18. sea change,
    ” That does not make sense the agreement has been amended on multiple occasions with every new enlargement of the EU”

    Again supporting my view? An amendment is a unanimous agreement to make a change. The marvelous thing about already being a member of something is you get to take part in making or blocking changes. This wonderfully useful power is the one thing everyone agrees we will give up in regard to the EU.

    ” if May resigns who can hold the Tories together?”

    Quite. She was the compromise candidate. I would guess that if reports of her personal honesty are to be believed, this would have contributed to their choosing her, because every side thought it could trust her. But in a position where a lot of fudging of the truth is required to passify voters, that is otherwise not necessarily a good choice.

    She sticks rigidly to her chosen lines whenever asked questions, hence ‘Brexit means Brexit’, which of course expresses determination but otherwise says nothing at all. Her angry response that she would deliver ‘red white and blue’ Brexit, equally suggests to me she is sick of being cross-questioned when she has no answers she is able to give. She could decided she has to come clean to the nation, or the party could just push her too far arguing about the mutually exclusive national imperatives.

  19. If we imagine that Parliament with a pro EU majority will block Brexit or certainly a version of Brexit they don’t agree with, how likely is it that they will allow Theresa May to engineer an early general election ?

    Given the boundary changes due in 2018 and fewer constituencies once the changes are implemented, i should imagine that some Tory MP’s might not be playing ball by backing some Government positions. If they don’t support Theresa May in her negotiations with the EU, they might try to engineer a leadership contest with a candidate that is more flexible on Brexit.

    I think the Government will run into trouble during 2017 on many fronts and i don’t think it is as simple as repealing the FTPA, so that Theresa May can call an election at a time of her choosing. It is quite possible that we will end up with a new Tory leader/PM by the Summer and quite probably a new Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn at some point will have to think of the interests of people who might vote Labour but are not currently Labour party members. Once Corbyn loses Union financial backing, he will be gone.

  20. S Thomas,
    I think the difficulty now with an act enabling article 50, is that once people started looking under legal stones, a number of other legal difficulties have come to light. I would hope the government was aware of these anyway, but maybe hoped no one else would notice.

    Untill the legal dispute is fully resolved no one knows what such an enabling act would have to contain, because it might be necessary to specifically cancel other legislation.

  21. R Huckle,
    good point, that although boundary changes might overall help the conservatives, specifically right now and at a time of a narrow majority, they might encourage anyone on their side who loses out in the changes to oppose the government. Nothing to lose.

  22. DANNY
    Certainly there is a growing sense of impatience that nothing is happening, but as I see it ‘nothing happening’ is the main government plan

    Beautifully and accurately put.


    We’ll get to know in the next few months, but I’m with DANNY here. Like much international law, it requires revision from time to time. In particular, A127 should have been revised PDQ once the EU treaty was amended to include A50. But for now, it says what it says.

    A128.1 states: Any European State becoming a member of the Community shall … apply to become a party to this Agreement. It shall address its application to the EEA Council.

    That wording strongly implies that the EEA Council may reject the application should the provisions of A128.2 not be met. So, although new EU members MUST apply, it does not mean that their application will be successful.

    Should the UK leave the EU, the A128.2 negotiations would clearly have to be revisited and re-ratified, but nothing in the EEA Agreement suggests that could not happen.

  23. sea change,
    I had a look at your link on legal advice re EEA treaty. It concentrates on the definition of the contracting parties, arguing that the treaty means countries are contracting parties by virtue of their continuing EU membership. Unfortunately for anyone relying on this section to make an argument, this section contains some massive weasel words, saying the definition should be interpreted as it would make sense in the body of the agreement.

    So, looking at the body of the agreement, it clearly states there is a procedure for joining, which cannot be automatically accomplished simply by joining the EU. It has a couple of addenda to the definition of members which seem to have been explicitly made to add new countries each time the EU has enlarged. So the body of the agreement suggests that being a member of the EEA is not linked to being a current member of the EU. Plainly the treaty envisages that some EEA members will not be EU members.

    The defintion of contracting parties can simply be read to imply that EEA membership was granted to all countries who happened to be EU members at the time it was created. Special changes to the EEA agreement have always been needed to adjust its membership each time the EU membership has changed. The meaning adopted thus far when interpreting the treaty seems to have accorded with this view that it defines the contracting parties based on EEC members on the day it was signed, not as this has changed since.

    Are there any mechanism to throw out a member? Seems to me a special change to the EEA agreement would be needed to remove the UK as a member, which the UK might choose to oppose.

    Other articles of the agreement which we have not looked at may shed further light on how ‘contracting parties’ should be understood.

  24. Dipping out for a festive break, and to avoid endless debate over articles this and that and what might or might not happen, I thought I would stick my head around the UKPR door and wish everyone a happy New Year.

    I see the French have enacted a law giving workers the right not to check work emails when they are away from the office. Extremely civilised, these French. The erosion of workers rights is highly likely to be one of the slow burn negatives of Brexit, and in a few years time I suspect many employees may look back on the EU years as a golden age for employment conditions.

  25. Some thoughts on CMJ’s regional analysis:

    Overall, there are only a few conclusions to be drawn that are “statistically significant”:

    The Conservatives improving in the North
    Labour declining in the Midlands/Wales
    Lib Dems improving in the Rest of the South

    with two more

    “near misses (would likely be significant with one more similar poll)”

    Labour declining in the Rest of the South
    Labour declining in London

    However, that’s a formal analysis at a rigorous, 3 sigma level for the confidence limits. Informal inspection suggests that in some other cases, there appear to be a clear direction of movement, even if this is not breaching that 3 sigma limit. In some cases, a less demanding 2 sigma limit might presumably be breached?

    In terms of the LD revival in the ROS, which clearly is significant, note that this is corroborated in the by-election results. Harry Hayfield has a post at Political Betting which illustrates this, and more: the LD gains have been not just in the ROS, but for the most part, specifically in the South West – and mostly in areas that voted Leave.


    Richmond Park and Witney before it, showed they can recover some lost ground in Remain territory – but council by-elections show they can also recover in spite of their stance on Europe, at least in their traditional stomping grounds. That will help them in county council elections in May. When we get to a general election however, they’ll need to do some careful juggling to satisfy both groups.

  26. ALEC

    @”endless debate over articles this and that ”

    Indeed-UKPR recently has been like a Lawyers’ Convention-but then that’s pretty much what the EU is-all about process rather than outcomes.

    I we get much more of this Anti Brexit legal Chaff, I think the question of how a UK GE can be called by this Government might well emerge as the key procedural question of 2017.

  27. Okay, here goes:

    Predictions for 2017:

    1. Corbyn to go of his own volition, probably after the May council elections. Lewis/Creasy to take over, which will immediately improve things.

    2. Labour to do badly in Scotland and the Tory revival to continue: a lot of Scots are quite conservative, and many natural Tory voters went to the SNP to defeat Labour. Now that’s accomplished, they are returning.

    3. Quite a significant Lib Dem revival – I expect them to reach 16-17% in the polls.

    4. No progress for UKIP – I think they might be finished.

    5. People will tire of Brexit, and the world will move on. I expect a ‘Mervyn King’ outcome.

    6. Further crises in Greece and Italy, putting the Euro under strain. But Fillon and Merkel to win, probably quite easily.

    7. I wouldn’t have voted for him, but Trump will be better than everyone expects.

    Happy New Year, and thanks to all for the enlightenment you have provided, allowing me to quietly impress in the Dog and Ferret.

    Make sure you enjoy that extra second tonight.

  28. Barbazenzero: “But triggering A50 has been all but agreed by Lab, so will pass. Getting approval for A127 will not be nearly so easy and Lab will have no reason to support May. Very few Con rebels would be needed to thwart her.”

    You make a good point.

    Labour could say that they were being asked to unnecessarily endorse the result of leaving the Single Market. It might only complicate matters.

    But you are clutching at straws with this one. Apart from the problem that the EEA is obviously between the EU and the EFTA states, the rest of the EU will never agree that the default position for anyone wanting to leave the EU is EEA membership.

    Since June 23rd , a controversy has arisen as to whether Article 50 allows for a framework of a new relationship to be agreed. Good luck with the argument that, whatever is agreed, EEA membership takes priority.

  29. @Saffer

    I’ve been looking at the 2017 Local Elections, and one to keep a close eye on is Cornwall.

    The whole unitary authority is up for grabs, and if the Lib Dems are breaking through, there should be evidence here. In many places they are within touching distance of first place.

    It;s worth browsing the different seats just see the beautiful and evocative names of the wards.

  30. MILLIE

    Good guesses, presuming that the Mervyn King result is a 2nd round defeat. ;<)}


    Time will tell re the EEA.

    Providing the membership fee post 2021 is set at an appropriate level I don't see what incentive there is for the EU 27 to reject that, although Norway might be a little miffed.

    Having the ability to rejoin the WTO as a full member would also allow the UK to pursue all the super external trade deals the Chevening Brexiteers now have ready to negotiate formally as well as allowing NI to retain a "soft" border in line with the Belfast Agreement.

  31. Sea Change,

    You can’t make Predictions including Caveats!

    Your not allowed “IF” article 50 is this or that, you have to say yeah or nae!


  32. New Brexit thread

  33. MILLIE

    @” But Fillon and Merkel to win, probably quite easily.”

    If I were a betting man, I would have a punt on Macron. I wonder-when the French Hand hovers over the Ballot Paper,- it will actually place a tick for a N*zi or a Thatcherite?

  34. saffer, cmj, et al.
    Although the posted annual roundup analysis has significance limits associated, I don’t see that there is any allowance for the accumulated number of data sets. In other words, the eror on the trend should be quite a bit less than on any individual poll. Or, looking at the plotted data there are pretty clear trends which are much more reliable than the actual percentage score on an individual poll.

    The two things I noticed is lib dem trending up everywhere, though this might not make much difference except in specific areas where they have a much higher than average following. But the effect could be significantly magnified in constituencies where they do. The national support figure might be an accurate average, but could be very unreliable locally.

    The other thing i particularly noticed was conservatives flatlining in London. Labour and UKIP support is dissipating everywhere, but in London the only group gaining is the lib dems. As we have noticed, here and there this might represent a real parliamentary gain.

    Behind these figures there is plainly a shift of support away from extreme leave parties to extreme remain parties. Whether this represents a real will for Remain, or just a rehabilitation of the libs to pre-coalition levels is another matter.

    I still think conservatives have as much to fear from a respectable win in a general election as from a loss. perhaps more. This is a difficult time to be responsible for the country and they cannot afford to be polarised on one side or the other of Brexit. Occasional reliance on labour votes in parliament may suit them very well, or indeed the occasional loss with someone to blame.

  35. Predictions for 2017

    Labour loses enough Council seats in Scotland to allow the SNP to control 24 Councils, either outright or with coalitions (excluding Tory coalitions).

    A prolonged spell of very cold, calm weather causes a blackout in Scotland

    Theresa May refuses to change transmission charges in Scotland

    The number of suicides related to sanctions continues to rise

  36. And Kezia Dugdale resigns as Leader of Slab

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