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I've always understood that motorway X signs surrounded by a red ring are mandatory - but what if there's no red ring?

I've always understood that motorway X signs surrounded by a red ring are mandatory, so if you don't obey them, you deserve what you get. However, I have also seen these signs without the red ring around them and have understood this to be an advisory warning only. Am I wrong about this?

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If red lights on the overhead signals flash above your lane and a red X is showing then you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in that lane. If red lights flash on a signal in the central reservation or at the side of the road, you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in any lane. A static red cross or blank sign above the hard shoulder means that you should not drive on the hard shoulder, except in an emergency or breakdown.
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