DOUG BEATTIE, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, has said there will be no united Ireland in his or his children's lifetime.
The 56-year-old made the comments at the launch of his party's manifesto in Belfast this week, according to BBC Northern Ireland.
They come after Mr Beattie said he would no longer attend anti-NI protocol rallies after claiming some participants are 'openly calling for people to get angry and to raise the temperature'.
However, despite claims the protocol threatens Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom and could strengthen calls for a united Ireland, Beattie predicted there would be no change in the status quo.
"Regardless of what others are saying, there will be no fundamental change in the constitutional position of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom," he said, reports BBC Northern Ireland.
"Issues arise — the protocol can and will be dealt with.
"So instead of using the protocol as an election slogan, let's get to work.
"Real work to get the issues dealt with.
"There will be no united Ireland in my lifetime, there will be no united Ireland in my children's lifetime."
Political solution needed
Beattie, who remains opposed to the protocol and wants to see it replaced, revealed this week that his constituency office was attacked after he withdrew from the anti-protocol rallies.
However, he said 'blood and thunder rhetoric from a lectern will not help nor solve the Protocol problem' and that a political solution needs to be sought.
The protocol, part of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, means some goods arriving in Northern Ireland from Great Britain are checked at Northern Irish ports.
The checks take place whether or not the goods are remaining in Northern Ireland, and mean that if the goods are destined for the Republic, no further checks need to take place at the border.
This has led to claims that the protocol has effectively created a sea border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and could threaten the union between the two, while in turn advancing support for a united Ireland.
In December, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou MacDonald cited Brexit as one reason support for a united Ireland is growing.
Speaking at the New York City Bar Association Council on International Affairs, she said preparations for a united Ireland should begin now.
"Growing numbers of people now want a new Ireland and I believe the preparations for constitutional change for a new Ireland need to start now," she said.
The UUP manifesto, published in advance of the NI Assembly Election on May 5, focussed mainly on health, the economy, infrastructure, education and communities.