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. @S THOMAS

    do you think we ought to call a paramedic for him? he seems very depressed !!!”

    I have little to be happy about but I’m not clinically depressed. Having said that, the way things are going it won’t be long before I am.

    2017 looks to be as bad as 1917 the way things are shaping up.

  2. New Brexit legal challenge in English and Welsh divisional court has been announced asserting that an Act of Parliament will be required for the UK to give notice of leaving the EEA.

  3. Hireton

    Not quite “new”.

    There are additional claimants joining an existing judicial review.

    Their claim concerns a contradiction between the Lisbon Treaty and the EEA agreement of 1993, as to when a state leaving the EU leaves the EEA.

    It’s something that has been mooted for some time and that the Lisbon Treaty was fairly sloppily drawn up in not dealing with it at the time.

    It sounds a likely candidate for the court to send to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.

    More details here



    Thanks for the heads-up and the Grauniad link.

    There’s quite a good summary from 2016-12-21 of what’s involved on the LEXOLOGY site: Single Market Withdrawal: A New Challenge to Brexit for the UK Government

    It concludes with:
    So what is the significance of all this? Surely if BI succeed it will only complicate and delay the Brexit process and will not derail it?

    Dependent upon the outcome of UK Supreme Court case Parliamentarians are likely to have vote on whether to approve the triggering of Article 50. It is highly likely that they will feel duty bound to respect the result of the June referendum to leave the EU.

    However if there is a separate vote on the giving of an Article 127 notice to leave the EEA the result is more difficult to call as the merits are much more nuanced. The big question the EU referendum result did not address was; what trading arrangement with our European neighbours should we put in its place? Many Members of Parliament feel they should have a vote on this. Voting to stay in the EEA Single Market would not be undermining the UK referendum result but merely a clarification of the terms of leaving the EU.

  5. Barbazenzero

    And return thanks for that link!

    Inevitably, it’s a bit clearer on the issues than a journalist’s rendition of the situation. :-)

  6. Their Lordships in the UK Supreme Court, will be aware of this case re leaving the EEA, as well as Jo Maugham’s case in the Irish courts.

    I wonder if they might find it expedient to parcel up as many of these issues, as can be made relevant to the appeal before them, and send the whole sorry mess to the ECJ to be sorted out?

    I wonder if they might find it expedient to parcel up as many of these issues, as can be made relevant to the appeal before them, and send the whole sorry mess to the ECJ to be sorted out?

    That would make a lot of sense, but if they have already asked for an ECJ opinion on A50, they might already be drafting something similar to the EFTA court re A127.

    I have an early start tomorrow so TTFN.

  8. Catalans seem to be going for broke in their referendum – probably not surprising given Spanish Nationalism.

    Catalan President: – “We will declare independence unilaterally if Yes wins one more vote than 50% in referendum”


    Probably not just of interest to Scotland, but also to rUK as it may affect how rSpain reacts in the Gibraltar situation.

  9. Anthony has frequently warned about believing reports from parties that their internal polling shows them doing much better than published polls.

    I’m not sure that applies to situations where their internal polling is reported as pointing to “a near wipe-out”.


    SNP 45% : SCon 25% : SLab 15% is much where published polling shows SLab to be, so it shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

    Perhaps of more interest are the comments from SLab figures in the article. As many Unionist former SLab voters have moved to the Tories, SLab seems determined to pursue an alliance with the Tories in some councils as their route back.

    It seems an odd strategy.

  10. OLD NAT
    “SLab seems determined to pursue an alliance with the Tories in some councils as their route back.”
    I am not sure that it is a route back, or intended as such, but a means of relevant involvement in local government – hence more enthusiasm and action in council elections than, e.g. in the EU referendum campaign, which was zero, or much hope of gains in any Scottish or national parliamentary elections.
    These seem to me to be structural problems within both thel UK and EU wide socialist agendas, severely confused by the issue of transition to a global process of labour movement which – rather than policy or planning – has given rise to mainly local stresses over migration.
    SLAB can’t compete with a SNP in government with a socialist plus independence agenda largely free of the migration issue – regardless of whether sett;ed into the present frame of regional nationalism and self-government or aimed at full independence. So they will get on with what constituency parties have mainly always done, and work for objectives in the devolved powers and responsibilities of local government.

  11. Legal challenge to leaving EEA.

    This is london dinner party law. If anybody asks you to crowdfund this you may as well set fire to notes.

    If you think about it what they are saying is that the UK parliament can decide to stay in the EEA despite the Eu and the UK government saying it is not so.It is farcical.EEA membership requires negotiation on specifics. What happens if the parties do not agree?

  12. S THOMAS
    If you think about it what they are saying is that the UK parliament can decide to stay in the EEA despite the Eu and the UK government saying it is not so.

    Do you have any sources for those assertions?

    What HMG says doesn’t seem to be very relevant given their attempted misuse of the prerogative, unless the SC reverse the High Court decision, which most lawyers seem to think unlikely. The EC could hardly be less savvy than HMG but they would need confirmation from the ECJ and/or the EFTA court to be sure.

    Time will tell, of course, but in the meantime EEA Article 127 exists and may well need to be tested in the EFTA court.

    Of course, none of this would have been an issue had the leave campaign published a detailed plan once the final bill [1] was published in December 2015, or better still had the appropriate amendments been made during the passage of the bill from June to December 2015.

    [1] See parliament.uk’s Bill documents — European Union Referendum Act 2015

  13. BZ
    yes, common sense

    .This is too absurd for serious discussion.What is the end game here?That the uk should leave the EU but remain in the EEA and thence in the single market against the wishes of the EC and the EU states and indeed the british government.

    It demonstrates the utter contempt some who purport to be europeans have for europe and the EU.It ,in truth,if this had been proposed by farage it would have been laughed at by those who now give it time of day.It is nothing more than saying the UK can do what it wants.I am a brexiteer but i do not believe in treating the EU with contempt.

  14. Thanks to Catmanjeff for part 2 of his analysis of YouGov polls this year. It was posted on this thread at 5:35 yesterday (29 December).

    It does not give the reasons for the trends, and obviously if one party does well it has to be at the expense of another, or of don’t knows, so almost bound to be bad news for somebody.

    All the same the trends are clear, particularly in the (English) Midlands and Wales area, where there are many marginals. (Pity these two areas cannot be separated for analysis.)

    Hope the parties concerned are keeping an eye on this site, if they hope to win a general election.

  15. Catmanjeff

    Many thanks for part 2 of your analysis. Interesting as always and a refreshing change from the posts of Remainers who still don’t seem to understand that we are leaving the EU and probably the single market and customs union.

  16. S THOMAS @BZ

    yes, common sense

    Norway, quite rightly, suggests it would make much more sense to remain in the EU, but HMG are seemingly committed not to do so. Presumably they want to honour the referendum vote, which was to “leave the EU” and nothing more.

    That the uk should leave the EU but remain in the EEA and thence in the single market against the wishes of the EC and the EU states and indeed the british government.

    Do you have any evidence for either of those statements? Undoubtedly the EC and the EU 27 would prefer the UK not to leave the EU, but are you seriously suggesting that they object to the UK rejoining EFTA? Have I missed some press release from HMG regarding the EEA?

  17. @bz

    ‘re the EEA, I seem to recall a certain poster enthusing about the EEA and referencing how it was possible to be a member and not sign up to unfettered freedom of movement. Theyvseem to have had a change of mind!

  18. CMJ

    Thanks for those graphs.

    Hope we get a few By elections in 2017-some interesting results in prospect-particularly of JC loses McCluskey .

    I think LDs will do well.

  19. There has been some speculation that EEA membership doesn’t entail quite so much freedom of movement as full EU membership.

    Can anyone highlight the difference in wording? Is there any reading I can do on this question?

    Were the UK to leave the EU but not the EEA, and adopt her own “interpretation” of EEA freedom of movement rules, what would be the mechanism for sanctioning or even expelling her?

  20. @Oldnat

    You Gov’s data (based on a three poll rolling average) ropughly puts the SNP on 49%, Con on 23% and Lab on 15%. On YG data, SCon over took Slab in July and haven’t looked back since. This data is pretty close to the Herald data.

    @TOH @Alister1948

    Thank you.

    I do wish the Wales and Midlands data was seperated, but there we go!

    I don’t go much into reasons as that quickly becomes subjective and partisan, and I endeavor to remain objective. For example, many of the indicators that are not good for Labour get markedly worse since JC was re-elected Leader. Is the reason JC himself, the way the media report him, or the way his PLP have reacted? Or something else?

    I don’t know for sure, as there is no way to prove any of these. The human mind is great at correlating artificially cause and effects.

    Overall many of the indicators on Labour’s dashboard are flashing amber or red. The details look worse than the headlines. However, predicting the future in current politic circumstances is a hazardous occupation!


    @” So they will get on with what constituency parties have mainly always done, and work for objectives in the devolved powers and responsibilities of local government.”

    Looks like it won’t be easy :-


  22. When I say EEA, I of course mean the EFTA, and through that membership of the Single Market through the EEA

  23. NEIL A
    Can anyone highlight the difference in wording?

    The 41 page AGREEMENT ON THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA is available in PDF here. In short, there are a few provisions where opt-outs can be made on grounds of public policy.


    The key bit is Article 28:
    1. Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured among EC Member States and EFTA States.
    2. Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of EC Member States and EFTA States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.
    3. It shall entail the right, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health:
    (a) to accept offers of employment actually made;
    (b) to move freely within the territory of EC Member States and EFTA States for this purpose;
    (c) to stay in the territory of an EC Member State or an EFTA State for the purpose of employment in accordance with the provisions governing the employment of nationals of that State laid down by law, regulation or administrative action;
    (d) to remain in the territory of an EC Member State or an EFTA State after having been employed there.
    4. The provisions of this Article shall not apply to employment in the public service.
    5. Annex V contains specific provisions on the free movement of workers

    Annex V is a 3 page PDF here.

  24. NEIL A

    The Conversation has a short EEA primer, which also covers the A127 challenge here.

  25. Barbazenzero

    Thanks for those links.

    On these complex legal issues, it’s useful to see the arguments for both sides laid out, since they aren’t just esoteric legalisms, but go to the heart of how the UK is/should be currently governed.

    For us old Liberals, these issues may matter more in the long run than the current issue of EU/EEA.

  26. hireton

    The EEA could represent a holding position for the uk . Properly negotiated it may represent a solution.
    What is pure fantasy is that the uk could in some way remain a member of the EEA without negotiation with the EU which is what the legal action is suggesting.
    I think the other EU states would be suprised to find that the uk could remain a member of the single market, restrict freedom of labour, be outside the customs union,and have an independent agriculture and fisheries policy and pay nothing into the EU budget.still i might have missed something.
    My comments are to the legal action not the merits of the EEA.

  27. COLIN
    “Looks like it won’t be easy :-”

    Polling for Holyrood is a very, very different kettle of smokies to polling intention and movement in local government elections, in which there is a very vigorous contest between SNP, SLAB and Conservatives, and the Greens, over issues like housing, education, health and policing – and some alliances which would not make sense at national level.

  28. John Pilgrim

    “over issues like housing, education, health and policing”

    That Health and Policing are not run by councils (nor education outwith schooling) won’t stop them being the subject of much polemic!

    Indeed, I’d anticipate most of the SLab/SCon arguments will be primarily about the Scottish Government performance, and constitutional issues.

    The most interesting aspects of the council elections will be –
    1. the number of candidates each party selects in the 3 or 4 member wards. Getting that wrong can seriously damage the number of councillors a party gets

    2. The preferential vote transfers at the election. This is the first STV election since Scots politics polarised in 2014. Will the polarisation continue with votes being transferred only within each set of parties?

  29. “also asked two questions about a second referendums”

    *Third* referendum, count them, 1) 1975, 2) 2016.

  30. OLDNAT
    For us old Liberals, these issues may matter more in the long run than the current issue of EU/EEA.

    Sadly, the old Liberal party ideas on home rule ceased to be mentionable once the LD merger occurred, but if I understand the EEA rules correctly would allow differential rates of VAT in the “home” nations for example creating the prospect of FFA for all who want it. For myself I would prefer a government which cared about its subjects and fought for an equitable EU but that’s not going to happen so long as the 1872 plurality system is in place for Westminster.

    However the EEA would seem to be an obvious holding pen while HMG and the other parties figure out what they really do want. At the very least it would be a more sensible concentration of effort than the “great repeal bill”, which seems designed to prevent the UK from trading with the EEA or EU for the future.

    The next generation will no doubt think the 2016 voters were idiots in throwing away the opt-outs deal they had, but at least they’ll have the British pleasure of moaning about 2016 in perpetuity.

    The EEA could represent a holding position for the uk . Properly negotiated it may represent a solution.

    Obviously EFTA and/or the EU would be setting a contribution level if we “choose” to stay in the EEA.

    The whole point of the A127 challenge isn’t to do it on the cheap but to ensure that HMG have to justify to the Westminster parliament why they should exit the EEA which the referendum act and ballot paper failed to mention. Lab are probably just being realistic by saying that they will vote for triggering EU A50, but they could and should fight tooth and nail to avoid triggering EFTA A127.

  32. @oldnat

    The 2017 local elections in Scotland will be the first for some time in which councils will be able to campaign on raising council tax over and above the nationwide increases which the SG has brought in for more expensive properties. It will be interesting to see how all the parties handle that, especially SLab if it really is aiming for more local coalitions with the Tories.

  33. bz

    we jump ahead of ourselves. The EU is also a contracting party to the agreement. If the legal argument is correct then the EU can serve notice on the other parties that it is to leave the EEA. We would have the EEA without the EU.I have seen no sensible interpretive argument that allows of this particular interpretation apart from someone noticing that the uk is a contracting party but imho ” as an existing EU member”

    If this ill founded application is correct the uk would be a member without terms of membership.Like being a member of a club without rights or obligations and paying no entrance fee.why would anyone fight tooth and nail to keep the uk in never never land?

  34. legal challenges

    If i was the AG right now i would be more concerned about some challenge under the equalities legislation against an act of parliament rather than anything else. I have a nasty feeling something is being prepared.

  35. S THOMAS
    The EU is also a contracting party to the agreement.

    Of course, and page 1 of the AGREEMENT ON THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AREA I linked to above shows that it was last amended on 2016-05-28 by an agreement between the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway on an EEA Financial Mechanism for 2014-2021

    Presumably the UK will have to pay it’s EU contribution as part of the settlement resulting from A50, but will have until 2021 to negotiate and agree the EEA contribution from 2022 onward.

    Or are you suggesting that the EU will refuse to allow the UK to re-establish its EFTA membership? Why would that be in their interest?

  36. Hireton

    Good point re the council tax increase policies.

  37. An End of Year poll from Gallup


    “If there was a referendum tomorrow in your country on whether UK should remain a part of the European Union, would you vote to stay in the European Union or to leave the European Union?”

    Remain 54% : Leave 46%

    Responses from other countries here


    UK same as Greece, rather less pro-EU than Ireland and Spain at 80% Remain (which might rather deflate the hopes of those who would like them to re-join the UK to boldly go in pursuit of brave adventure).

  38. Re: The Article 127 ruse from so called “British Influence”

    Have they read the Article before it?

    Article 126
    1.(19) The Agreement shall apply to the territories to which the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community
    (20) is applied and under the conditions laid down in that Treaty (21), and to the territories of Iceland (22), the
    Principality of Liechtenstein and the Kingdom of Norway ( 23).


    Therefore if the UK territory is no longer part of the EU article 126 specifically excludes such territory to be within the EEA.

    They will lose the court case. The government and the EU commission are correct. Our membership of the EEA rests on us being in the EU.

    Sorry to be a remain party pooper!

    Happy New Year Everyone

  39. Sea Change

    Given that it was lawyers who drafted the wording of all the treaties and the legislation – and often did so badly! – it could be that the lawyers in this case are equally useless, and didn’t bother reading the whole thing.

    However, lawyers who are that bad can’t usually make a living in private practice and end up working for the local council. :-)

    There have been several bits of litigation in 2016, which didn’t quite work out precisely as some confident assertions on this site declared, so I’ll wait and see.

    A Guid New Year to you too, when it comes – and it’ll come sooner to you than to us!.

  40. Sea Change
    “Therefore if the UK territory is no longer part of the EU article 126 specifically excludes such territory to be within the EEA.”

    I’ve read your post several times, and can’t see your point. Article 261 refers to the EEC, no the EU, and at a superficial reading I’d say it includes all the territories in the EEC at the time of the treaty. But I have an old brain untrained in these niceties, and am happy to leave it to the lawyers!

  41. sorry I mean article 126 of course. Old brain!

  42. @Old Nat

    Thanks for the links.

    However, I am very concerned that the Gallup poll puts ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ in the same category. Although many refugees are fleeing economic hardship (often caused by natural disasters), as well as those who are fleeing warfare and persecution, to place those who are trying to escape from warfare in Syria or persecution in the Sahal in the same category as those who come to the UK from (for example) Poland for purely economic or educational reasons seems to me to perpetuate a gross misrepresentation of reality.

  43. Ok folks, prior warning!

    Tomorrow is Hogmanay so it’s time for New Year Predictions.
    You have 24hrs.

    And be warned, I will cut and paste them all and bring them out next year!


  44. On the reference to the ECJ issue, there are two ways the government can lose the A.50 case in January:

    1. Obviously, a ruling that it needs an Act of Parliament.
    2. A decision that the Court cannot be sure if an Act of Parliament is needed without resolving whether A.50 is revocable.

    In both cases, the government can respond by bringing forward an Act of Parliament, and thus render any reference irrelevant.

    (Logically, the revocability issue is a red herring for these purposes. The argument against A.50 notification without an Act of Parliament is that it would mean government action ending the legal effects of the European Communities Act. If this is correct, it is true regardless of whether further government action could revoke notification.)

  45. Old Nat – 12.41 a.m.

    Just returning for a moment to the situation in Scotland, I wonder if SLAB can really be in such a mess. At present the political debate in Scotland remains rooted in the constitutional situation – and for me personally that’s fine, of course – but the question has to be asked about ‘bread and butter issues’, which Labour have been trying to keep in the public consciousness.
    We need some polling on how Scots see the relative importance of the constitutional and economic issues, alongside the question of which party seems best suited to meet the requirements of the Scottish electorate.

    As Hireton points out (4.13 p.m.), it will be interesting to see how the freeing up of Council Tax will influence voting patterns,if at all. My view is that the SNP, having trounced Labour in many areas (although not yet in my own patch, West Lothian) is trying to convince the economic conservatives that they are a safe enough bet. Only once that has been achieved can they seriously return to the constitutional debate and go for another Indyref.
    And much of the economic competence question will be influenced by the way in which the present Westminster government handles the upcoming negotiations with the EU and the subsequent talks with the rWorld. Should May fail, then the SNP could be laughing all the way to a seat in the UN.
    2017 will turn out to be just as interesting as 2016, I suspect!

  46. Ingenious though the A.127 case is, it has one key flaw. 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.

    The key to the A.50 case was that those who raised the point on 24 June 2016 refrained from mentioning it during the referendum debate, and did not mention it during the referendum campaign – which would have obliged Remain leaders to disavow the argument, which would have been a little embarrassing if not actually legally relevant.

    The real game in the A.50 case is to bring the House of Lords into play. In the Commons, there simply are not enough Tory rebels once you consider the DUP, Labour Leavers, and Labour “referendum respecters”. Only requiring an Act of Parliament brings the Lords into play, and that can create real delay.

  47. Peter Cairns

    Perhaps the last line of my previous offering might be quoted back at me in twelve months’ time.

  48. Peter Cairns
    “Tomorrow is Hogmanay so it’s time for New Year Predictions.”

    Jan 20th. Trump becomes president
    February. Trump starts to deal via Farage rather than the official ambassador
    March. Labour lose hundreds of seats in local elections.
    April. Trump and Putin sort out peace in Syria which includes getting rid of Assad.
    May. Isis atrocities in Europe, USA and Russia increase
    June. Trump assassinated
    July. President Mike Pence gets the USA to invade whichever country it thinks is responsible for the assasination.
    August. World War III
    September-December. Ashes

    Happy New Year!

  49. Joseph1832

    The other factor which might cause the UK Government problems is if the SC rules that an Act of the UK Parliament is required to trigger Art 50, but that current legislation requires that one or more LCMs are required to be considered by the devolved legislatures (presumably that would also apply to any Art 127 legislation)..

    Everyone recognises that the UK Parliament can ignore the lack of LCMs if it wishes – ultimately by amending the relevant devolution legislation.

    But that would take time, further intensify the split between the nations of the UK, and risk the HoL not being willing to co-operate.

    I have no idea how the SC will rule – and neither has anyone else! – so we’ll just need to wait and see.

  50. Pete B @ Peter Cairns


    My prediction for 2017.

    Very little will change.

    Some posturing councillors will be replaced by posturing councillors from another party Some good councillors will be replaced by equally good councillors from another party.

    Legal cases will rumble on, and on, and on ……

    Trump will be found in bed with First Lady Ivanka, and the religious right will insist that it’s OK. There is good biblical precedent for rulers behaving that way.

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