The Dutch government fell on Friday night amid deep divisions over plans to restrict the right of asylum seekers to bring their families to the Netherlands.
Mark Rutte, the prime minister, had called for a crackdown on family reunification but that had infuriated two of the four parties in the ruling coalition of conservatives and liberals.
Mr Rutte said his coalition government was resigning as differences between the parties were “irreconcilable”.
“This evening we have unfortunately reached the conclusion that the differences are insurmountable. For this reason, I will shortly present my written resignation to the king in the name of the whole government,” he told a press conference.
Mr Rutte added that he had the “energy” to stand for a fifth term but that he had to “reflect” first.
Late-night talks to salvage the government failed to resolve the impasse on Wednesday and Thursday after the plan was rejected by important members of Mr Rutte’s cabinet.
On Friday evening, it became clear that the row had torn the four-party coalition apart and that the Netherlands would have to hold a general election, most likely in the autumn.
There are deep divisions between the liberal D66 and centrist Christian Union, which oppose the crackdown and Mr Rutte’s VVD and the Christian Democrats.
Mr Rutte has been accused of “p—ing off” his deputy Sigrid Kaag, the D66 leader, after trying to push through the plan in the face of liberal opposition in the coalition, which is the fourth he has led.
Asylum applications in the Netherlands jumped by a third last year to over 46,000, and are expected to increase to more than 70,000 this year – topping the previous high of 2015 in a densely populated country of about 18 million people.
Mr Rutte wants to reduce the number of refugees to head off the challenge from parties such as the populist Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB).
His VVD is the largest party in the Netherlands but recent polls predicted that if an election was called, it would tie with the Dutch farmers party.
The threat of the BBB could convince the warring allies to keep the coalition together.
The BBB won a landslide victory in regional elections to become the largest party in all 12 Dutch provinces in a vote dominated by tractor protests against Mr Rutte’s plans for compulsory farm buyouts to meet EU climate targets.
Caroline van der Plas, the BBB leader, has called for a cap of between 50 to 100 asylum seekers per city council or regional authority, as she looked to consolidate her victory in a vote that became a referendum on almost 13 years in office of “Teflon Mark” Rutte. (Telegraph)