UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he does not anticipate a referendum on Irish Unity for “a very, very long time to come”, while Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that an early border poll would be “explosive and divisive.”

Describing himself as “a proud unionist”, Johnson told BBC Northern Ireland’s Spotlight programme, which has not yet aired, that he would be celebrating the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland as a state. However, he acknowledged that nationalists had often felt excluded in Northern Ireland.

When asked about the potential of a future border poll, Johnson said that rather than Irish Unity, he would prefer the UK to think collectively about what it can accomplish as a whole.

The British premiere also insisted that he would have to take action on the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol if the European Union refused to ditch what he called “absurd” elements of the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

The programme also interviewed Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who reportedly denounced an early Northern Ireland border poll as “explosive and divisive”.

In addition, Martin reportedly insisted that the NI Protocol was not ripping the United Kingdom apart.

The new trading arrangements post Brexit have been a source of controversy, with loyalists fearing that the customs border down the Irish sea increases the likelihood of a United Ireland in the future, and leading to a recent upsurge of violence in Unionist areas in Northern Ireland.

A recent poll showed support for a united Ireland at 42%, while a poll published today suggested 49% of those living in Northern Ireland would vote against leaving the UK.