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Samantha Power on Brexit: 'There's a huge amount of buyer's remorse'

Erin Fuchs
Deputy Managing Editor

The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, Brexit for short, has been anything but a straightforward breakup.

While 52% of British citizens voted for Brexit in June 2016, the UK is still part of the EU as the country’s two major parties fight over the terms of the withdrawal ahead of an Oct. 31 deadline.

Now some of those pro-Brexit voters may be regretting their decision, at least according to Samantha Power, a former US ambassador to the United Nations.

“My hope is a second referendum. I think there's a huge amount of buyer's remorse in the country,” Power told Yahoo Finance’s Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer as part of a wide-ranging interview.

Samantha Power speaks to Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer.

Power made the comments on Tuesday during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Her comments on Brexit come amid a slew of challenges to the exit strategy of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a Brexit proponent who has threatened to leave the EU without a formal deal.

‘My Irish ... soul here is at stake’

A major part of Brexit negotiations has been the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK and was beset by civil war-like violence for decades starting in the 1960s. “The Troubles,” as Northern Ireland’s years of turmoil were known, finally came to an end in 1998 under a deal known as the Good Friday Agreement, which aims to prevent checkpoints from going up at that border.

In his Brexit negotiations, Johnson has been accused of trying to violate the Good Friday Agreement. Power, who grew up in Dublin, said an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland is crucial for maintaining peace.

“My Irish ... soul here is at stake because the one place it can't end up is with a hard border ... There are still a lot of very unresolved issues,” Power said. “And the one thing that has kept the peace intact has been just the commonality, people getting to know each other again, crossing from north to south as if you're crossing from New York to Newark. And that's how it has to remain.”

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks during the Convention of the North at the Magna Centre in Rotherham, Britain September 13, 2019. Christopher Furlong/Pool via REUTERS

EU officials have expressed their desire to uphold the Good Friday Agreement, while accusing Johnson of reneging on it. “The commitment to all aspects and all the provisions of the letter and spirit of the Good Friday agreement recently seems to be taken more lightly than before,” a senior diplomat from an EU member state recently told the Guardian. “This avoidance of the hard border, it is not just a desire, it is not just about preferences, it is legal obligation.”

In her interview with Serwer, Power commended the EU for “standing firm and having the back of Ireland, which of course, has benefited enormously from being part of the EU, both in terms of the peace and in terms of the economy.”

On Friday, Johnson said that he “won’t be deterred” from exiting the EU, even if he does not get an official deal stipulating the terms of the separation. But Power said this week that a so-called no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Britain.

“I don't think that a no-deal Brexit is something that you know anywhere near a quorum of parliamentarians or even a plurality of Britons would support. I mean, the economic consequences for that country would be so dire,” she said.