Sinn Fein are predicted to triumph in Irish elections, which must be held by 2025. If they can win a big enough majority, Dublin will throw its full weight behind calls for a border poll.
With a Sinn Fein First Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the pressure will build on the UK Government to call the referendum.
Unity can only happen if there is a majority in favour in border polls in the north and south. Two-thirds of voters in the Republic support reunification, according to an Irish Times poll in December.
There is no majority for reunification in Northern Ireland. Half of voters there would back staying in the UK, with 27 per cent wanting unity. But the demographics in Northern Ireland are changing. Last year, a census showed Catholics, who traditionally support reunification, outnumber largely Unionist Protestants for the first time.
Most people (55.78 per cent) in Northern Ireland voted Remain, and Brexit, which created the Irish border problem, galvanised the push for reunification.
The DUP’s year-long boycott of Stormont prevented the use of devolved powers to tackle the longest NHS waiting times in the UK and the cost of living crisis.
Yet more turmoil and uncertainty risks convincing more voters that Northern Ireland’s future would be better served as part of the Republic and the EU. But a new and fully functioning protocol makes a powerful argument for the status quo.
The treaty gives Northern Ireland access to both the UK and EU markets which, as Rishi Sunak said in Lisburn on Tuesday, no other country in the world has. Foreign investors are ready to pour billions into the poorest part of the UK if the new deal brings political stability.
The new Brexit deal guarantees lucrative barrier-free trade to the EU’s single market of more than 450 million consumers.