1. Review of Intergovernmental Relations: What was agreed?

The Review of Intergovernmental Relations reported on 13 January 2022. It was a joint review undertaken by the UK Government and the devolved administrations to update intergovernmental structures and ways of working. All four administrations agreed to work under the new arrangements set out in the report. The review stated that the new structures were built on:

[…] principles of mutual respect and trust, respecting the reserved powers of the UK Government and Parliament and the devolved competences of the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, Northern Ireland Executive and their legislatures.

The review confirmed that intergovernmental decisions would “continue to work on the basis of agreement by consensus”. The new structures and processes are non-statutory and are to be “kept under review”. Overall accountability for intergovernmental relations (IGR) continues to sit with the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the First and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland.

1.1 Principles for intergovernmental relations

The review stated that collaborative working would be founded on the following principles:

  • Maintaining positive and collaborative relations based on mutual respect for the responsibilities of their governments and shared role in the governance of the UK.
  • Maintaining and building trust based on effective communication.
  • Sharing information and respecting confidentiality.
  • Promoting understanding and accountability for intergovernmental activity.
  • Resolving disputes using a clear and agreed process.

1.2 Intergovernmental structure and processes

The new IGR structure is made up of three tiers:

  • Lowest tier: Interministerial groups (IMGs) on specific policy areas. Regular portfolio engagement at a ministerial level on areas of mutual interest will take place within the forum of IMGs. They will aim to meet four times a year.
  • Middle tier: The Interministerial Standing Committee (IMSC), the Finance Interministerial Standing Committee (F:ISC) and additional time-limited committees. The IMSC will consider issues that cannot be considered at portfolio level. It will bring together strategic considerations affecting many different portfolios and discuss cross-cutting international issues. It will have oversight of all IMGs. It will meet every other month, but it could meet more often if agreed by consensus. The F:ISC will consist of representatives from HM Treasury and the devolved governments’ finance ministers. It will sit alongside the IMSC. Time-limited committees will be formed if a cross-cutting issue normally falling within the remit of the IMSC requires consideration in isolation from other issues.
  • Top tier: The Prime Minister and Heads of Devolved Governments Council. IGR will be overseen by the council, with the other two tiers accountable to this forum. The council will consider policies of strategic importance to the whole of the UK. It will act as the final escalation stage of the dispute process. Annual meetings will be chaired by the Prime Minister.

A standing secretariat will provide administrative support. It will facilitate the process of dispute resolution. The secretariat will consist of officials from all four governments and will be accountable to the council. It will be hosted and funded by the Cabinet Office.

1.3 Government responses to the review

The UK Government described the IGR review as a “landmark agreement”. It said the new IGR structures “create a more equal, transparent and accountable system”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the new agreement built upon the “combined strength” of the four governments.

Spokespeople from the devolved governments also welcomed the reforms but cautioned the review’s success would depend on the UK Government’s “attitude and behaviour”. Deputy First Minister of Scotland John Swinney warned that a change in approach from the UK Government was needed if there was to be “a genuine improvement in intergovernmental relations”. A spokesperson from the Welsh Government said the reformed system facilitated “meaningful engagement”. However, they said the “test” would be whether the UK Government “follows the spirit of the review, based on respect, so that this new approach serves all governments equally”. Nichola Mallon, a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive, and a member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said her party would take part in the “initiatives designed to strengthen collaboration”. However, she argued that the “track record” of British government ministers was to “overrid[e] and obstruct locally elected political leaders”. Ms Mallon said that “if that’s what this is about, or what it becomes, then it won’t be acceptable to us”.

The House of Lords Constitution Committee has argued that the “success” of the new arrangements depends on how the UK Government and the devolved governments “operate them”. The committee believed it is contingent on:

[…] whether they are committed to using the new structures to cooperate on achieving shared objectives, rather than simply managing—or taking opportunities to accentuate—their differences.

2. Common frameworks: What are the recent developments?

Since 2017, the UK Government and the Scottish and Welsh Governments have been developing agreements, known as ‘common frameworks’, in policy areas of devolved competence that were previously subject to EU regimes. The Northern Ireland Executive had dissolved in January 2017 and devolved government in Northern Ireland was not restored until January 2020. As a result, the Executive did not endorse the plans until June 2020.

The common frameworks are guided by principles agreed by the four UK administrations. It was decided that frameworks would be established where necessary to facilitate a functioning internal UK market, while acknowledging policy divergence. The frameworks would “respect” the devolution settlements and ensure recognition of the economic and social linkages between Northern Ireland and Ireland. The frameworks would adhere to the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Neil O’Brien, the UK Government minister responsible for the common frameworks programme, has said the purpose of these agreements is to “manage” divergence of policy, and to create a process for the different governments in the UK to “talk together in an orderly way” and avoid “unnecessary surprises”.

There were 152 policy areas identified where powers had returned from the EU and intersected with devolved competence. The UK Government and the three devolved governments agreed that 120 of those areas did not require a common framework. The Frameworks Analysis 2021 report sets out a breakdown of the 152 policy areas and provides rationales for those where no common framework was considered necessary.

2.1 Progress on agreeing common frameworks

Under schedule 3 to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, the UK Government has a duty to report to the UK Parliament every three months on the progress made on developing common frameworks. The most recent report was published on 10 March 2022. It reported that at the end of December 2021:

  • 1 framework had received final confirmation and had been implemented. This is on hazardous substance planning.
  • 29 frameworks had been provisionally confirmed.
  • 2 frameworks were still developing towards provisional agreement. These were the Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications and Services frameworks. The Government expects stakeholder engagement on these frameworks to take place in early 2022.
  • 10 had been published between September and December 2021 and were undergoing parliamentary scrutiny across the UK’s legislatures.
  • A further 13 provisional frameworks had been published since the end of December 2021.

A list of the status of the frameworks and of those undergoing parliamentary scrutiny can be found in the report.

2.2 UK Internal Market Act 2020 and common frameworks

The United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 enshrined in law the “market access principles” of mutual recognition and non-discrimination. The intention was to prevent trade barriers within the UK. While each government of the UK is able to regulate goods and services in its part of the UK, it cannot prohibit the sale of goods in its part of the UK that comply with the applicable regulations in the part of the UK where they are produced. Equally, it cannot regulate to discriminate against goods from another part of the UK.

However, there are some exclusions to the act where the market access principles will not apply. Delegated powers under the act allow new exceptions to be made. A process for agreeing such exclusions in areas of policy divergence within a common framework has been developed by the UK Government and the devolved administrations. Where agreement to such an exclusion is reached within a common framework, the minister for the relevant UK government department is responsible for putting a draft statutory instrument before the UK Parliament: approval of both Houses is needed through the affirmative resolution procedure for new exclusions from the act’s market access principles. Guidance on the process for considering exclusions in framework areas was published in December 2021.

The House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee has written to the UK Government and the three devolved administrations about the “lack of reference” in common frameworks to the exclusions process. In February 2022, George Eustice, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, wrote to the committee that the December 2021 guidance sat separately to individual frameworks, and “that references in specific framework agreements was not required”. However, the committee has said this position is of “significant concern”. It suggests that the frameworks’ “failure” to outline the exclusions process from the 2020 act puts in “jeopardy” the autonomy of the devolved administrations in areas of their competence. The committee stated:

In order for the UK Internal Market Act to function […] and to avoid any misunderstanding, it is key that common frameworks should explicitly set out the process through which exclusions can be agreed. It is the spirit of common frameworks that the autonomy of the devolved administrations within their areas of competence is respected, and that they should have the opportunity to diverge from the rest of the UK on certain policy areas.

2.3 Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol and common frameworks

The Government has stated the common frameworks contain “the governance structures needed to contribute to managing divergence” arising from the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. In its March 2022 progress report, the Government explained that common frameworks policy teams had worked to ensure that “frameworks satisfactorily take account of the specific circumstances in Northern Ireland that arise as a result of the protocol”. In a report published in March 2021, the Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee called for frameworks that include a major intersection with the protocol to include a reporting process on the divergence and its effects. The Government agreed that there should be a system in place for monitoring divergences. However, it stated that details of how to approach this were a matter for individual government departments.

3. Northern Ireland: On what issues does the UK Government plan to legislate?

3.1 Resignation of the First Minister and Northern Ireland Assembly Elections

On 3 February 2022, Paul Givan of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) resigned as First Minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, citing the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol on the “delicate balance created by the Belfast and St Andrew’s Agreements”. Under the Northern Ireland Act 1998, if the first minister resigns, the deputy first minister also ceases to hold office. Therefore, Mr Givan’s resignation meant that Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin ceased to be Deputy First Minister. The Northern Ireland Executive was no longer able to meet as it is chaired jointly by the first and deputy first ministers. Other Executive ministers were able to stay in post, but they could not make decisions on contentious or cross-cutting issues.

Brandon Lewis, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, described Mr Givan’s resignation as “extremely disappointing”. He said the UK Government wished to see the return of a fully functioning Executive as soon as possible. However, Mr Lewis resisted calls for early Northern Ireland Assembly elections. They remained scheduled to take place on 5 May 2022.

Brandon Lewis has said he hoped that whatever the result of that election, nationalist and unionist parties would nominate first and deputy first ministers, as “the right thing for Northern Ireland is to have the devolved authority of the Executive and Assembly back as soon as possible after 5 May”. However, he has questioned whether devolution in Northern Ireland can function post-election without the DUP changing its position on the protocol. Mr Lewis has confirmed the UK Government’s commitment to “fixing the problems with the protocol and to protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in all its dimensions”. Recent press speculation has suggested that the Queen’s Speech may include a bill to override parts of the protocol. The leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said that it would be “difficult” for his party to re-enter the Executive after an election unless issues arising from the protocol were resolved. The DUP said they want to see the “circumstances created where there can be early restoration of the Executive”. However, they maintain that the protocol must be removed.

Under the newly passed Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Act 2022, Executive ministers must be appointed after an election within four six-week periods, a maximum of 24 weeks. After this, if the Executive has not been formed, the secretary of state must call another election. Previously, ministers had to be appointed within a 14-day period after an Assembly election.

Further information on the Northern Ireland Protocol, including an overview of the speculation about new legislation to alter the protocol, can be found in the House of Lords Library briefing ‘Queen’s Speech 2022: Brexit—Retained EU law and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland’. The House of Lords Library briefing, ‘Impact of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland on recent political developments in Northern Ireland’ (22 February 2022) also provides background on the political debate in Northern Ireland on the protocol. Additional reading about key issues debated during campaigning for the Assembly election can be found in the House of Commons Library briefing, ‘Northern Ireland: Key issues’ (8 March 2022).

3.2 New Decade, New Approach: Legislation still to be passed

In January 2020, the UK and Irish Governments published the New Decade, New Approach agreement. It covered various policy issues, including reforms to the Assembly and Executive, and processes to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. The UK Government made commitments to legislate in several areas to implement the deal:

  • Amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to extend the period in which a first minister and deputy first minister must be appointed after a resignation or after an assembly election.
  • Reforms to the Petition of Concern (PoC) mechanism, so that they would only be used in “exceptional circumstances”.
  • Legislation within 100 days to complete the implementation of the framework in the Stormont House Agreement for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The UK Government introduced changes to the appointment of Executive ministers, and made reforms to the PoC mechanism under provisions in the Northern Ireland (Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern) Act 2022. However, it is yet to legislate on legacy issues related to the Troubles. There have also been calls more recently for the UK Government to legislate on proposals for cultural and language reforms in Northern Ireland. The deal had committed the Northern Ireland Executive to sponsor a new framework.

Troubles-related legacy issues

The agreement included a commitment to introduce legislation on the implementation of the framework in the Stormont House Agreement for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In July 2021, the UK Government published a new set of proposals which set aside previous plans. The new measures included:

  • An independent information recovery body focused on the provision of information about Troubles-related deaths and injuries. Inquiries would be for the purpose of “information recovery” rather than to “create a file for prosecution”.
  • A statute of limitations applied equally to all parties linked to all Troubles-related incidents. This would bring an immediate end to all criminal investigations into Troubles-related offences.
  • An oral history initiative of the Troubles.
  • An end to all current and future Troubles-related civil cases and inquests.

In presenting the proposals, the UK Government stated that the current system for “addressing the events of that dark and difficult period of our national history is not working for anyone”. It argued that “lengthy, drawn out and complex” legal processes “stifle the critical information recovery and reconciliation measures that could help many families”. It said that time was “not on our side”.

These proposals were criticised by political parties in Northern Ireland and the Irish Government, the families of the victims of the Troubles on all sides, and campaign groups. On 20 July 2021, the Northern Ireland Assembly was recalled to discuss these proposals. The Assembly passed a motion criticising the proposal to introduce a statute of limitations.

The Government had originally indicated that legislation would be introduced in autumn 2021. However, a bill has not yet been introduced. In January 2022, Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons:

We were very clear […] that we would engage intensively and widely with stakeholders, including the Northern Ireland parties, before introducing legislation, and that is what we have done and what we are doing. We are reflecting carefully on what we have heard, and we remain committed to addressing the issue through legislation.

Further information is provided in the House of Commons Library briefings, ‘Northern Ireland: Key issues’ (22 February 2022) and ‘Investigation of Former Armed Forces Personnel Who Served in Northern Ireland’ (27 July 2021).

Cultural identity and language

The New Decade, New Approach agreement committed the Northern Ireland Executive to sponsor and oversee “a new framework both recognising and celebrating Northern Ireland’s diversity of identities and culture and accommodating cultural difference”.

It was to include:

  • A statutory Office of Identity and Cultural Expression.
  • Legislation to create a commissioner for the Irish language.
  • Repeal of the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737.
  • Legislation to create a commissioner “to enhance and develop the language, arts and literature associated with the Ulster Scots/Ulster British tradition in Northern Ireland”.

The deal stipulated that the draft bills be officially published on the day of the formation of the Executive and presented to the Assembly for consideration within three months of the restoration of the institutions. Three draft bills were published but the deadline for consideration was not met.

When Arlene Foster resigned as First Minister of the Executive with effect from June 2021, Irish language legislation formed part of the Executive formation talks between Sinn Féin and the DUP. Sinn Féin said it would not support a new DUP first minister unless Irish language legislation was introduced by the next Assembly election in May 2022. During the negotiations, Sinn Féin said it had asked Brandon Lewis to introduce legislation at Westminster, stating that it was the “only way forward to finally resolve” the dispute. However, Sammy Wilson (DUP MP for East Antrim) said the UK Government “must not interfere in devolved issues at the behest of Sinn Féin”.

Arlene Foster also resigned as DUP leader with effect from May 2021, and was succeeded in that role by Edwin Poots. Mr Poots said he would support Irish language legislation but not necessarily before the next Assembly election in 2022. However, Mr Lewis told the House of Commons on 21 June 2021 that the UK Government was prepared to introduce legislation in Westminster prior to the elections:

If the Executive have not progressed the legislation for the identity, language and culture package in the New Decade, New Approach agreement by the end of September, the UK Government will take the legislation through the UK Parliament. The New Decade, New Approach agreement was endorsed by the UK Parliament, and we will introduce the legislation that delivers on these commitments in October 2021, if necessary. This will provide for the creation of an Office for Identity and Cultural Expression, an Ulster Scots Commissioner, and an Irish language Commissioner.

Legislation has yet to be introduced at Westminster. In January 2022, the UK Government stated that it remained committed to delivering the full package of identity and language measures set out in the agreement. However, on 28 March 2022, Brandon Lewis told the House of Commons Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that the Government did not plan to publish any proposals during the build up to the Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May 2022. Mr Lewis also reiterated the UK Government’s position on its role in introducing the measures:

Ultimately, if the parties can suddenly come together and find a way to deliver this where it should be delivered, at the Executive, all the better. We said that we would deliver this if it was not delivered by the Executive, and I stand by that commitment.

4. Devolution in England: What are the Government’s plans?

In the Government’s levelling up white paper, it set out a mission to ensure that by 2030 “every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution”. It also committed to providing “simplified” and “long-term” funding settlements. The levelling up white paper was published on 2 February 2022. It set out the Government’s 12 UK-wide ‘missions’ on spreading “opportunity more equally” across the UK. The white paper outlined the Government’s plans for devolution in England. It included commitments to negotiate further devolution deals, and it set out a devolution framework detailing pathways for areas seeking a deal. The Government said it would bring forward legislation and explore provisions around:

[…] strengthening devolution legislation in England in order to expand devolution to more places, deepen current devolution deals and enable the devolution process to be simpler and more transparent.

Further information on the white paper and the 12 missions can be found in the House of Lords Library briefing ‘Queen’s Speech 2022: Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’.

4.1 New devolution deals

In the white paper, the Government said it intended to negotiate a series of devolution deals:

  • “Trailblazer deeper devolution” deals: To be negotiated with Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. The aim is that they will act as the “blueprint” for other mayoral combined authorities (MCAs) to follow.
  • Mayoral deals: To be negotiated with York and North Yorkshire, and an “expanded” MCA deal for the north east. The Government will also pursue a mayoral deal in “Cumbria and similar areas”.
  • County deals: To be negotiated with Cornwall; Derbyshire and Derby; Devon; Plymouth and Torbay; Durham; Hull and East Yorkshire; Leicestershire; Norfolk; Nottinghamshire and Nottingham; and Suffolk. The Government aims to have a number of them agreed by autumn 2022.

Future devolution deals will be agreed with county and unitary authorities covering a “sensible functional economic area (FEA) and/or a whole geography area”. Devolution deal areas must have a population of at least 500,000. The Government has stated that it would seek to “legislate to establish a new form of combined authority model made up of upper-tier authorities only”, such as county councils and their associated unitary councils.

The Government intends to create a new independent body in England “focused on data, transparency and robust evidence”. It will enable data to be collected on a consistent basis across areas. It will facilitate data sharing and analysis by Government, individuals, and devolved bodies. Before new devolution deals are agreed, a “new accountability framework” will be finalised that will apply to all devolved institutions in England. It will set “clear roles and metrics for assessment and measures to support local areas, alongside strong local scrutiny mechanisms”.

4.2 Devolution framework

The purpose of the devolution framework is to set out “clear and consistent” pathways for those areas seeking a devolution deal. The framework has three levels:

  • Level 1: Informal joint working between authorities.
  • Level 2: A single institution without an elected mayoralty.
  • Level 3: A single institution with a directly elected mayoralty. Level 3 bodies would have the widest range of powers, including raising money from council tax and business rates, police and crime commissioner responsibilities and public health duties.

The intention of the devolution framework is “to provide greater clarity on the devolution offer across England”.

The Government’s preferred model for devolution in England is one with a “directly-elected leader covering a well-defined economic geography with a clear and direct mandate”. However, the Government states the framework is a “flexible, tiered approach” to allow areas to “deepen devolution at their own pace”.

5. Wales and the Senedd: What are the recent developments?

(Written by Philip Lewis from the Welsh Parliament: Senedd Research)

5.1 Legislative consent

The Welsh Government has laid consent memorandums for 19 UK bills over the 2021–22 parliamentary session. At the time of writing, the Senedd has voted to withhold consent from all or part of four UK bills:

  • the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill;
  • the Professional Qualifications Bill;
  • the Subsidy Control Bill; and
  • the Nationality and Borders Bill.

Members of the Senedd have raised concerns about the number of legislative consent motions (LCM) being laid. In December 2021 a motion was agreed in Plenary noting “the increase in the number of legislative consent motions being presented to the Senedd” and stating that “all substantial and significant primary legislation should be enacted by the Senedd rather than through the LCM process”.

5.2 Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales

The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales has been established by the Welsh Government. The Welsh Counsel General, Mick Antoniw, announced the membership of the commission on 16 November 2021. Mr Antoniw also set out the objectives for the commission in Senedd Plenary. The commission has two broad objectives:

  • to consider and develop durable options for fundamental reform of the constitutional structures of the United Kingdom; and
  • to consider and develop all progressive principal options to strengthen Welsh democracy and deliver improvements for the people of Wales.

In January 2022, the co-chair of the commission Professor Laura McAllister wrote that its work has “a licence to be radical”, and will “explore options for governing Wales as a distinct nation within the existing UK, and also the options for a future for Wales outside the Union”.

The commission launched a public consultation on 31 March 2022, citing “an opportunity to tell us what is working well with the way Wales is governed at the moment, and what needs to change”. The consultation will run until 31 July 2022, with an interim report expected in the autumn/winter. The commission’s final report is expected to be published by the end of 2023.

5.3 Senedd reform

The Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform was created on 6 October 2021, with its first meeting held on 3 November 2021. The committee has been set up to consider recommendations from the Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform, which published its report in September 2020. The report included recommendations for legislation to increase the size of the Senedd to between 80 and 90 members (from its current membership of 60), and the introduction of the single transferable vote (STV) electoral system.

Delegates at the Welsh Labour Conference backed a motion in favour of increasing the size of the Senedd to between 80 and 100 members. The motion also said that reform should include a method of election “at least as proportional as the current method” and agreed that a boundary commission should be established. Plaid Cymru also backed reform proposals in its annual conference, while the Welsh Conservatives remain opposed.

The Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform is expected to publish a report by 31 May 2022 with recommendations for a Welsh Government bill on reform.

6. Scotland: What are the plans for a second referendum?

(Written by Sarah McKay from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre)

 The Scottish National Party manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election included a pledge to hold an independence referendum after the Covid-19 crisis was over.

The Scottish Government and Green Party cooperation agreement and shared policy programme similarly included a policy commitment to secure a referendum on Scottish independence after the Covid crisis. It stated:

This would be within the current parliamentary session on a specific date to be determined by the Scottish Parliament. If the Covid crisis has passed, our intention is for the referendum to be within the first half of the five-year parliamentary session.

In an interview on STV’s Scotland Tonight on 10 January 2022, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon committed to do “everything in her power” to hold an independence vote by the end of 2023. The First Minister told STV:

I intend to do everything that is within my power to enable that referendum to happen before the end of 2023, and we will set out exactly what that means in terms of the date of the introduction of legislation when we’ve taken the detailed decisions around that.

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government 2021–22 makes a commitment to publish information on independence ahead of a referendum, stating:

Before this referendum the people of Scotland will have the information they need to make an informed choice about their future and, therefore, the Scottish Government will start work on a detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland.

 The Scottish Government has not confirmed when this detailed prospectus will be published.

The UK Government has stated that it is against holding a second referendum. Successive UK governments have maintained that the power to legislate for a referendum is reserved to Westminster. In January 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that his Government would not agree to any transfer of the power to hold a referendum from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. However, while the Scottish Government agrees that it cannot unilaterally end the Union, it argues that the power to hold a referendum of some sort is within its devolved powers. The House of Commons Library briefing ‘Scottish Independence Referendum: Legal Issues’ (11 April 2022) examines the legal issues surrounding a second Scottish independence referendum.

On 26 April 2022, the Scottish Information Commissioner held that the Scottish Government should publish parts of the legal advice it has received over a potential second independence referendum. It ordered the information to be made available by 10 June 2022. The Scottish Government had refused to disclose the advice in response to a freedom of information request. It argued it would breach legal professional privilege.

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Cover image from Wikimedia.