Several cabinet ministers have told the BBC a no-deal Brexit could lead to a vote on Irish unification.
One senior minister said the prospect is “very real” and very much on the prime minister’s mind.
A second cabinet minister warned the government risked “sleepwalking into a border poll”.
And a third cabinet minister said there was an understanding in government that a vote on unification would be a “realistic possibility” if the UK leaves the EU without a deal next month.
“If we are party to creating an environment of chaos, disruption and uncertainty – that could move the dial”, the source said.
All three spoke to the BBC on condition of anonymity.
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The conditions for a “border poll” are set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
The UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland – currently Karen Bradley – has to call a vote if it appears likely there would be a majority for a united Ireland.
Sinn Fein has called for a vote on Irish unification after Brexit.
The issue was raised this week when the prime minister held talks with Northern Ireland’s parties in Belfast.
Downing Street believes the majority of people continue to support the current political settlement – and the PM has pledged to protect the “precious union”.
We have heard warnings about the impact of Brexit on the UK before.
Former prime ministers Sir John Major and Tony Blair warned about it before the 2016 EU referendum.
As she tried to drum up support for her original Brexit deal last month, Theresa May warned a no-deal Brexit could strengthen the hand of those wanting Irish unification and Scottish independence.
With some increasingly concerned about the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March, concerns about Northern Ireland’s future appear to be increasing.
‘Dangers are real’
“A no-deal Brexit is the way that’s most likely to lead to a border poll and to people questioning the benefits of being in the United Kingdom,” one cabinet minister told the BBC.
“The dial hasn’t been moved – the dial could be moved in those circumstances.”
“The dangers are