Continuing EU Membership for Indy Scotland is Possible – Special EU Status for Scotland in the UK is Impossible 164

Alyn Smith was excellent in the European Parliament yesterday. He was doing exactly what the SNP need to be doing – building sympathy in the European institutions for continuing Scottish membership of the EU.

The European Union is an institution which is based on treaties which have legal force. There is nothing whatsoever in any of those treaties, and nothing in any existing arrangement with any state, that makes it possible for part of a state, even a federal state, to be inside the EU, when the state itself is outside.

There is absolutely no way that Scotland can be inside both the UK and EU, if the UK is outside the EU. This question has been visited before by the EU in detail, in relation to Cyprus in particular . I understand that Nicola Sturgeon may feel a need to show that she explored all possibilities. But there is a serious danger of confusing the issue by asking for impossible things that will just exasperate people and lose sympathy.

It is very possible indeed to work out modalities for independent Scotland to join as an EU member at precisely the same moment the UK leaves. Indeed, the creation of a new doctrine of right to retain EU citizenship that makes it possible for recognised EU “regions”, of which Scotland is one, to achieve statehood and continue membership, only if the member state is leaving the EU, could alleviate potential Spanish opposition.

Such a solution can politically be stitched together. The reaction to Alyn Smith’s speech demonstrates that. Absolutely crucially – and I cannot emphasise the importance of this enough – no treaty changes would be required for Scotland as a newly independent state to continue membership. But any kind of special status for Scotland when it is not a state, would require treaty changes which we are just not going to get.

UPDATE – To answer a question three people have just asked me. The Greenland case is not in the least comparable because its relationship with the EU is based on the fact that it is an autonomous territory of an EU member state, Denmark. That is completely different from the situation of an autonomous territory of an EU non-member, which the UK will be.

UPDATING AGAIN Wow people are engaged in this one. The same is true of comparison with Monaco, Andorra, San Marino etc. They all belong to states INSIDE the EU. The UK will be OUTSIDE the EU. Scotland’s status will have no comparison at all to an autonomous territory of an EU member state.

I spent four years of my life as First Secretary (Political and Economic) in the British Embassy in Warsaw working specifically on Poland’s EU accession. I not only know this stuff backwards, I know a lot of key contacts. Alyn Smith shows that the SNP MEPs know what they are doing and are highly capable. I am consumed by desire to find a way to help my country at this crucial time. Having thought I had achieved some kind of acceptance that in the UK whistleblowers are forever excluded from public life, I today find it hurting more than ever.

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164 thoughts on “Continuing EU Membership for Indy Scotland is Possible – Special EU Status for Scotland in the UK is Impossible

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  • Republicofscotland

    The more I watch that bold, courageous and heartfelt speech, by Alyn Smyth, the more I come to realise that a independent Scotland within Europe, would be widely respected, even admired.

      • James

        England can borrow one at weekends…. to ferry all that extra trade it hasn’t got, to America !

      • Clydebuilt

        Naw England’s going to need them for it’s never ending conflicts, take them as soon as they are finished. Scotland doesn’t want to pay for their aircraft. They are going to cost twice the price of the carriers. ……. Enjoy.

      • Jock

        Convert them into floating dry docks to make new paddle steamers for Loch Lomond 😉

    • Duncan McFarlane

      But how well would it be treated if it ended up in debt or currency crisis problems, like e.g Greece or Spain? I don’t see much sympathy or admiration in the way the EU is treating Greece – instead austerity that makes even tory austerity in the UK look mild by comparison

    • MJ

      Off you go then, tatty bye. I’m looking forward to see how you get on with the euro. Ignore the lessons of Greece and just plod on regardless: that’s my advice.

      • Janet

        Don’t need to actually adopt the Euro. That’s already been fudged. In practice, entering the Exchange Rate Mechanism is voluntary, which is a prelude to using the Euro.

        • Duncan McFarlane

          True Janet, Sweden joined the EU in 1995 with membership terms including adopting the Euro, still hasn’t, and says it won’t after a 2003 referendum on changing currency to the Euro was a No vote.

          But to avoid either being treated like Greece or Spain by the UK (using Sterling) or EU (using the Euro) we’d have to fairly soon be running a budget surplus, not the deficit we’d have on independence.

          And issuing our own currency today would be different than for e.g Ireland when it became independent, when the Bretton-Woods agreement on fixed exchange rates between currencies was still in force. Currency speculators are always looking for an opportunity in deregulated markets.

          • Macha Maguire

            NEF did a lot of work on the Scottish Pound. If the new currency is accepted as tax by the Scottish government, along with the alternative currency, eg the Euro or Sterling, then there is no basis for currency speculation- with the added advantage that the currency cannot be moved offshore to tax havens.

          • michael norton

            I’ve heard that Irish people have said, they’d be better off if they could ditch the Euro and have British pounds.

        • MJ

          Well it won’t be able to use sterling, the currency of a foreign country not even in the EU. What do you have in mind?

          • Brian MacLeod

            Don’t swallow the BS, you can use any currency you like. There’s plenty countries around the world that use another’s currency.

            It is preferable to have your own, but as an interim measure using another currency is perfectly viable. And maybe the UK pound is not a good idea. The UK is going to be run into the ground by the racists who will find to their surprise that the former colonies are not very keen on the UK after being summarily dumped when the UK went into the EU. There is still considerable resentment in Australia and NZ about this. I expect the pound to really tank in the next few years, more than has recently happened.

      • George Gebbie

        A referendum is not the only path to independence. In fact it is not the constitutionally straightest. Any party that stands in a GE on a manifesto of independence as its main policy will, if it has more than half of the 59 Scottish seats, be able to constitutionally declare independence. This was indeed stated both by Margaret Thatcher when she was PM and Michael Forsyth when he was SoS for Scotland and people still voted for him. It is possible that GE may be called very soon…

        • Duncan McFarlane

          Constitutionally maybe. But to claim it was also democratic that party – or all parties saying a vote for them was a vote for independence without a referendum – would have to get more than 50% of the votes cast.

          Getting a majority of seats but not a majority of votes would not be a democratic mandate for independence.

  • Eric Smiff

    More of this old reality stuff. Warning: doesn’t mix with SNP fantasies.

    “European Commission says after Brexit vote – Scotland part of UK

    The European Commission said on Saturday Scotland was part of the United Kingdom and declined to “speculate further” after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for talks with the European Union to keep Scotland in the bloc

    “Scotland is part of the UK,” a Commission spokeswoman told Reuters. “Constitutional arrangements apply. We will not speculate further.”

    • James

      Begs the question….
      .. Is the Council competent to determine whether it accords with the UK’s “own constitutional requirements” ?

      If so, before which Court ?

      • Eric Smiff

        Brexit: Spain and France oppose Scotland EU talks

        The French president and Spanish prime minister have both said they are opposed to the EU negotiating potential membership for Scotland.
        Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy said he “believes everyone is extremely against it” and that “if the UK leaves, Scotland leaves”. President Francois Hollande of France insisted the EU would make no advance deal with Scotland.

        • George Gebbie

          Is that the same BBC that said Juncker would not meet with the FM??? What was it that happened today??

        • George Gebbie

          Is that the same BBC that said Juncker would not meet with the FM??? What was it that happened today??

        • Mike Harland

          Despite Brussels lockdown, clearly the secret phone conversations between EU leaders are still going on in order to fudge the situation and stymy Scotland’s leverage – it’s too much of a coincidence that on the very day Nicola actually got to meet Junker, any headlines will now be one of failure!.
          The EU knows that Spain and France have immense internal threats to their power: autonomous regions threatening independence in Spain and the far right gaining power under Le Pen in France. They may not in legal terms be situations in any way relevant to Scotland’s case, but their leaders don’t see it that way.

          I had thought the left in Spain would negotiate with the far-right-wing PP only if their ineffectual leader Rajoy departed, BUT: a) if rich Catalonia is given an inch, then the bigger region of impoverished Andalusia would want to protest and demand equal rights to join in the defection; so b) my latest sources say that it looks like the left have folded and Rajoy will now lead a coalition of left and right! They all have bigger internal and personal fish to fry rather than worry about Scotland. We are on our own now, unless the game in the EU changes in some way! An interpreter friend in France says that the English delegation at a conference were asked to leave and reluctantly did so this morning.

        • Brian MacLeod

          Aye, they secretly organised that EU referendum. They’re dead cunning like that.

          And so effective they would do a better job of running the UK than the Tories or Labour.

          • Eric Smiff

            The end result of this will be the clear understanding of the futility of any future indyref 2. No pound, no possibility of EU membership. Exactly as futile as indyref 1.

        • Clydebuilt

          The Greens and The Labour Party in Scotland voted for the Scottish Government to explore all possibilities to keep Scotland in the EU. Only party that didn’t vote in favour was red Tories they abstained

  • Ecosse Europa

    For Scotland the choice is clearly coming down to a binary one. Stay in the UK and lose EU citizenship. Stay in the UK governed by the Tory right that plans full TTIP, further curtailment of worker rights, health privatisation and a nasty xenophobic atmosphere. Also Johnson, Gove, Farage, Crabb and May will plan to reduce the power of Holyrood with a view to eventually abolishing it and reinstituting full direct Westminster neoliberal rule.

    The other choice is an independent, confident and outward looking Scotland in the EU. Pursuing social democracy and green policies.

    • Duncan McFarlane

      Not at all keen on getting an even more right wing tory government, but likeliest outcome to me looks like ending up with a Norway/ EEA style deal with Free Trade and Freedom of Movement for people with the EU outside it.

      And not convinced that the EU is a wonderful union for small countries to be in when you look at how it’s treated – and is still treating – Greece and Spain. Austerity that makes even tory austerity in the UK look mild – and even elections in Greece electing a socialist anti-austerity party didn’t change it

      • Ecosse Europa

        In the EU you take the good with the bad. In the UK Scotland has been taking nothing but bad from Westminster and it’s going to get worse. It’s not just about austerity either. It’s about democracy. English Votes For English Laws was just the beginning. That was Cameron, who appears moderate compared to Johnson, Gove and May.

        The EU is a work in progress and will become more democratic. As an institution it will outlast the era of US imposed neoliberalism. Westminster is beyond reform and will never again give Scotland a fair deal.

        • Duncan McFarlane

          If the EU had ever shown any signs of reforming or becoming more democratic, I might believe that. It’s not shown any, any more sign than Westminster. In fact if anything , it’s going in the opposite direction – centralising power rather than devolving it.

          The US is not imposing neoliberalism or austerity on Greece, the EU – and especially the German and hungarian and various other Eurozone governments are.

          The one indirect involvement the US has in that is through the IMF – who are the only part of the Troika who have been calling for more debt forgiveness and less austerity for Greece, while the European Central Bank, and the European Commission refuse to allow it.

          And i’m not saying that as any kind of fan of US foreign policy – far from it.

          Your argument seems to come down to judging the UK and EU on completely different standards, accepting there is bad in the EU, but saying none is acceptable in the UK.

          • Ecosse Europa

            Do you really suppose that anyone is appointed an EU Commissioner or ECB director without first being approved by Washington?

            What the EU needs is for the parliament to be seriously upgraded to be on a par with the EU Commission and the EU judiciary.

            As to comparing the EU and the UK. There is an superabundance of racism against Scots coming from Westminster, both institutionalised and from individuals. There is no racism against Scots coming from the EU.

  • Macha Maguire

    Craig, another question…

    IF it is the case that Scotland’s balance of payments deficit is less than ideal, so it possible that the anti Austerity SNP may end up under the notional/legal control of the uber Austerit-driven German Finane ministry?

    If so, what is the democratic outcome? massive austerity? Or a new QE solution that would open the door to reduced austerity (aka a change in the neo liberal free marketvphilosophybofvthe EU?)

    A second question: NEF worked out the viability of a Scottish pound. Is anyone else discussing this?

    I speak as an ex pat ascot in England who may well come home.

    Thank you

    • Soutron

      Were NEF advocating a digital currency alongside the Euro in that scenario? If Scotland was the sole issuer of a floated fiat currency why would it have to worry about fiscal deficits? Obviously adopting the Euro would impose real constraints on spending.

      A wee excerpt from an off-guardian article on the Greek situation:

      “Another cause of the crisis is the euro itself. The euro is a debt instrument, produced by a private bank (the European Central Bank) accountable to no government, and lent to member-states such as Greece. The concept of the European common currency was first proposed by economist Robert Mundell, who is also known as the father of “supply-side” economics, and who, in an interview with Greg Palast, had the following to say about the true objectives of the euro: “It puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians, and without fiscal policy, the only way nations can compete is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.” The euro was created to strip fiscal and monetary policy-making ability from national governments, leaving them without the ability to increase stimulus spending or devalue their national currency to regain competitiveness. The only option left is austerity and deregulation.”

    • Haemoglobin

      The digital currency idea (as outlined by NEF) deserves serious consideration. George Kerevan was hoping to get the SNP to look at it. I don’t know how that went, but it would appear they have not been in a major rush to roll it out. The possibility of another indyref sooner rather than later may mean things like this don’t get the consideration they may deserve.

  • Charles Crawford

    Really? There WOULD have to be treaty changes. A loud noise in the EP is not the same as approval by EU member states, Spain to the fore.

    It’s one thing having some modest status under EU norms as a region. But a region of what?

    What would be Scotland’s obligations? How much would it pay into the EU Pot? It’s requirement to promise to join the Eurozone? What currency would it be using as an independent state? Would it be a party to the EU treaties or not, and if so on what basis?

    Scotland had its fair chance to leave the UK and try its luck as an independent country. It voted convincingly NOT to do so. It can’t wriggle out of its obvious international law status by some crafty footwork. It can’t ‘continue’ its EU membership as if it were an internationally recognised independent state, as it isn’t one.

    With all due respect, working as Ist Sec (Pol and Econ) in Warsaw two decades ago gives you no qualifications whatsoever to opine on these legal mysteries. (As we both know.) I have worked on these issues at a far higher level and more recently in Poland as Ambassador. I am a barrister and know a few things about international law. You?

    In short I think you’re over-excitedly misleading your readers. That said, it might be possible for a Scotland as part of a non-EU UK to have some sort of special relationships with the EU in some areas, as negotiated with London’s help. Why not if it suits everyone?

    • nevermind

      sorry to p..s on the parade, Rajoy and Hollande say that If Britain goes, Scotland will go too, both are worried about their respective movements that want to leave too.

      The SNP will have to develop a foreign policy secretariat, very soon, to prepare for their Independence.

        • Clydebuilt

          Naw, England’s going to need them for their never ending conflicts…. Get them out of Scotland as soon as they are finished. Scotland doesn’t want to pay for the Aircraft, they are to cost twice the price of the carriers. The aircraft will be American. How much has the pound fallen by….. Enjoy.

    • Ba'al Zevul's Spamfiltered Sock

      it might be possible for a Scotland as part of a non-EU UK to have some sort of special relationships with the EU in some areas, as negotiated with London’s help. Why not if it suits everyone?

      Given that no-one has yet formulated anything approaching a clue about what happens next, and that two years down the line the position will not resemble any of the threats and promises of the various parties, I’d be interested in your qualified opinion on the way forward, with particulat reference to the feasibility of special relationships. It’s not just Scotland. NI’s position is even more problematic, and no doubt some regions (like London? The City?) would want privileged itreatment too. Isn’t it going to be rather difficult in diplomatic and corporate terms to escape the temptation to kick this referendum into the long grass, ignore half the public as usual and return to the fold on more or less the existing basis?

      Though I can certainly agree that there is an element of romance in Craig’s approach…

    • Brian MacLeod

      Well as a high heid yin, I’m sure you realise that politics trumps diplomacy*, and that’s what’s happening right now.

      But I don’t think the SNP’s game is to get recognised as a EU state within the EU.

      I think they are looking for a clear statement that it is not possible. Then they can go to the population of Scotland and put independence up either as a referendum, or run another election with the manifesto stating that with over a certain % of votes, then independence would be declared.

      I think EU is a sideshow to the main event.

      *(Not knocking diplomacy, a vital task)

    • Why be ordinary?

      You need to take this back to first principles Charles. Scotland is not a “region” it is a nation state which voluntarily became part of a Union. It has retained an independent legal system. Dissolution at least arguably produces a nation state again. Dissolution of the Czechoslovak Republic produced two nation states.
      Spanish objections to recognizing Scotish independence look different against a background of English rejection of the EU. Spain will resent losing fishing access and also the fall in the EU’s average income that will mean them becoming net contributors. SEAT will be more affected by tariffs than Mercedes, as no one buys a Mercedes because it’s cheap. So long as it were clear that there were no net increase in Members produced (i.e. A break away region of Spain would be out so long as Spain itself stayed in) then it’s much easier.
      The currency and central bank problem is more of a killer

  • James

    It may all, just “blow itself out” in the end.

    Like the “Leave” voters keep screaming, “it’s Democracy”.
    And they are right.
    They tend to forget however, there is no Democracy with out the Rule of Law.
    And the Law must be and will be respected.
    We are not “mob rule”.

    • michael norton

      Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy said Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish Government is not authorised to barter with other EU member states.

      Following a summit of 27 EU leaders in Brussels, he told a news conference: “I want to be very clear Scotland does not have the competence to negotiate with the European Union.

      “Spain opposes any negotiation by anyone other than the government of United Kingdom.”

      He added: “I am extremely against it, the treaties are extremely against it and I believe everyone is extremely against it.
      If the United Kingdom leaves… Scotland leaves.”

      French president Francois Hollande backed up his Spanish counterpart,
      insisting exit talks will only be held with the UK Government and not the Holyrood administration.

      He said: “The negotiations will be conducted with the UK, not with a part of the UK.”

      Well, that seems quite clear.

    • Why be ordinary?

      Does she make policy on the basis of what she reads in the Daily Express?

      • michael norton

        I expect she may make policy on the basis of What Spain and France tell her
        they have said

        • michael norton

          It is not just the Daily Express, here is a piece from the BBC

          Brexit: Spain and France oppose Scotland EU talks

          The French president and Spanish prime minister have both said they are opposed to the EU negotiating potential membership for Scotland.

          • michael norton

            It is expected that very soon the government will attempt to ram through the re-newal of TRIDENT
            based in SCOTLAND against the wishes of the people of Scotland.

  • Jeanette McCrimmon

    Today, MSPs have heard, Independence would be the “simplest and most obvious way” for Scotland to remain in the EU.

    Dr Hughes said it would be “logical” for any independence referendum to be held in the summer of next year to ensure it was done before the UK completed its negotiations and left the EU.

    Suits me!

  • Charles Crawford

    Here’s my detailed demolition of the misleading arguments above:

    Craig’s case collapses. It is built on the puny fact that one SNP MEP got a noisy welcome in the European Parliament, bastion of the most useless pampered Europhiliacs: Such a solution can politically be stitched together. The reaction to Alyn Smith’s speech demonstrates that.

    NO. It doesn’t demonstrate (or even show) that. Because (a) among EU capitals who ultimately decide there is no political interest in any such solution, and (b) any ‘political’ deal has to be given tortuous legal expression in treaty form.

    All of which said, IF eventually the UK leaves the EU in favour of some sort of EEA/EFTA hybrid relationship (brilliantly described here how that outcome might be reached), might Scotland and Scots have some sort of added ‘special relationship’ with the EU as a side deal? Why not, as long as everyone is happy with it and no damaging precedents are set eg for Spain/Catalonia, ie above all the arrangement emerges under a UK/EU treaty schema.

    Conclusion? Like most things, it’s simple.

    If Scotland wants to be independent it should be just that – independent. It should opt for leaving the UK and EU, setting up its own money, accepting its share of UK debt, and paying its own way in the world without subsidies from England or anywhere else. Once it has established itself as such, it can then decide if it wants to join the EU or EEA/EFTA, or become a bold buccaneering free trade space or a wretched inward-looking socialist slum.

    Until Scots vote for that and the rest of us accept that result, they are stuck with what they have voted for – being part of the UK and its multifold relationships with the rest of the world. Everything else is just a silly noise.

    • John Spencer-Davis

      Don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.

      Your “detailed demolition” consists of four paragraphs of irrelevant smarmy self-congratulation, three paragraphs of contemptuous abuse of Craig Murray and ourselves, his readership, and the rest of three propositions you could have stated in three sentences: (i) Scotland has voted to remain part of the UK; (ii) there is no political will for it; (iii) it would require too much legal re-working.

      Perhaps you are right, but clearly punching Murray and his readers and self-aggrandizement is a lot closer to your heart than seriously engaging on the matter. You seem to have missed the fact that Murray is simultaneously arguing for a second referendum.

      Hardly anyone ever reads your blog anyway, so I suppose you have to scrabble for visits from over here by being insulting and complacent at the same time. You must be great company in person.

  • Pete Streak

    “Monaco, Andorra, San Marino etc. They all belong to states INSIDE the EU.”

    Eh? They’re all independent states.

  • Bozo

    I don’t think many people in Scotland appreciate or understand how much the EU or its member states dislike Scotland. This should be a wake up call to the SNP but sadly Alyn and his party are still oblivious to the reality of the world we live in.

    The EU does not particularly like Scotland, and the Scotland should learn to be aware of this. The EU is ignorant of Scottish history and views us primarily as a conquered Provence, in their eyes we are secessionist which poses a threat to larger Union states, which of course they believe in. In their eyes being a conquered Provence they fear that Scotland leaving the UK could spark a chain of other seccessionist movements across Europe, particularly in Spain where Catalonia also has an independence movement. Now, this is precisely the ignorance that countries like Spain have on Scotland. Scotland is nothing like Catalonia, which is a coneqered Provence and was brought under Spanish rule centuries ago. Scotland cannot be compared to any other secessionist movement in Europe as for nearly 1000 years of Scottish history we have existed as an independent sovereign nation. Historically Scotland has never been conquered or colonized and Europe fails to understand this. Not only is it disrespectful for other EU countries to view us in similar light to other would be independent states, this is also an example of why the European Union does not work!

    For a large Union such as the EU to work then most member states should have an understanding of its other members, which of course it does not. As Spain has effectively said it will veto any attempt for an independent Scotland to rejoin the EU I would urge the SNP leadership to wake up now! If Scotland leaves the United Kingdom, which I am not in favour of then it must remain out side of the European Union. Nations like Spain do not have the competence to properly judge another. Spain due to electing a socialist government with flawed economic policies was brought to its knees in the 2008 recession, in fact Spain is still relieving bailout packages from the EU today. So, for a country like Spain that is not competent enough to run its self and was still a dictatorship until only 40 years ago I think we should take a lesson from this and remain outside the EU if we do become independent. The EU is a failing project, all of the rich northern states have movements to leave this Union so Scotland would be foolish to rejoin. What the SNP don’t understand is that that leaving will benefit us in the long run.

  • michael norton

    Scots rebel against Sturgeon’s bid to block Brexit as it emerges SNP is most anti-EU party

    Statistics which will embarrass the party leader show the SNP is Scotland’s most Eurosceptic party, with 29 per cent of voters having backed Leave last week.

    Sturgeon now risks angering her own supporters if she attempts to block Brexit or continues calling for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence.

    The revelation comes after the First Minister warned the Scottish Parliament could veto Britain’s decision to quit the E.U.bloc.
    David Coburn, the leader of Scottish Ukip, has branded the proposal “undemocratic and wrong” and vowed to challenge it.

    He told the Daily Express: “That would be a slap in the face to the almost 40 per cent of Scots who voted to leave.

    “We are a nation that has been united for 300 years. Scotland voted to stay as part of the UK and that should be that.”

    Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has vowed to get the “best deal” for Scotland’s fishermen.

    He made the pledge after meeting with fishing industry leaders to discuss the future of the sector in the wake of the EU referendum result.

    Many fishermen welcomed the Brexit vote, having claimed they were unfairly treated by the European Union.

    However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to protect Scotland’s position in Europe.

    Speaking after the meeting Glasgow, fishing sector representatives said the meeting was “very fruitful”.

    And Mr Ewing said key fishing talks would continue over the minimum two-year period needed for Brexit negotiations.

    “I am working with the fishermen’s representatives, I respect their views, I understand they have a different perspective from the Scottish government, but that will not stop us working constructively to get the best deal for Scotland,” he added.


  • John Henry

    Will the SNP have to advocate Scotland joining the Euro to be able to join/remain in the EU if a second Independence Referendum is held because of the Brexit vote? If not what are the alternatives?

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