Dutch Prime Minister resigns after failing to agree on migration policy

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced his resignation (PA)
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced his resignation (PA)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced his resignation and that of his Cabinet, citing irreconcilable differences within his four-party coalition about how to rein in migration.

The decision by the Netherlands’ longest-serving premier means the country will face a general election later this year for the 150-seat lower house of Parliament.

Mr Rutte said: “It is no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy.

“And today, unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.

“That is why I will immediately … offer the resignation of the entire Cabinet to the king in writing.”

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Mark Rutte’s decision follows tense talks over the country’s migration policy (Darko Vojinovic/AP)

Henk Kamp, a senior member of Mr Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, said: “It is a great shame that the government has now fallen.”

Opposition politicians wasted no time in calling for fresh elections.

Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Party for Freedom, tweeted: “Quick elections now.”

Jesse Klaver, leader of the Green Left party also called for elections and told Dutch broadcaster NOS: “This country needs a change of direction.”

The resignation follows tense talks between the four parties in Mr Rutte’s ruling coalition.

He had presided over late-night meetings on Wednesday and Thursday that failed to result in a deal on migration policy.

Further talks were held on Friday evening and Mr Rutte declined to answer questions about the issue at his weekly press conference.

Geert Wilders visits UK
Right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders immediately called for fresh elections (PA)

“Everybody wants to find a good, effective solution that also does justice to the fact that this is about human lives,” finance minister Sigrid Kaag, a member of the centrist D66 party, said before the talks began.

The talks have underscored ideological divisions in the coalition between the partner parties that do not support a strict crackdown on migration — D66 and fellow centrist party ChristenUnie, or Christian Union — and the two that favour tougher measures — Mr Rutte’s conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy and the Christian Democrats.

The coalition tried for months to hash out a deal to reduce the flow of new migrants arriving in the country of nearly 18 million people.

Proposals reportedly included creating two classes of asylum — a temporary one for people fleeing conflicts and permanent one for people trying to escape persecution — and reducing the number of family members who are allowed to join asylum seekers in the Netherlands.

Mark Rutte
Mr Rutte is the country’s longest-serving premier (PA)

Last year, hundreds of asylum seekers were forced to sleep outdoors in squalid conditions near an overcrowded reception centre as the number of people arriving in the Netherlands outstripped available beds.

Dutch aid agencies provided assistance.

More than 21,500 people from outside Europe sought asylum in the Netherlands in 2022, according to the country’s statistics office.

Tens of thousands more moved to the Netherlands to work and study.

The numbers have put a strain on a housing system already in short supply across the densely populated country.

Mr Rutte’s government had pushed for a law that could compel municipalities to provide accommodations for newly arrived asylum seekers but the legislation has yet to pass through both houses of parliament.

Mark Rutte
Last month, Mr Rutte visited Tunisia to offer financial aid to rescue the nation’s economy (Slim Abid/ Tunisian Presidential Palace/AP)

He also promoted European Union efforts to slow migration to the 27-nation bloc.

Mr Rutte visited Tunisia last month with his Italian counterpart and the president of the EU’s executive commission to offer more than one billion euros (£854 million) in financial aid to rescue the North African nation’s teetering economy and stem migration from its shores to Europe.

Mr Rutte’s coalition government, the fourth he has led, took office in January 2022 after the longest coalition negotiations in Dutch political history.

An election for the 150-seat lower house of the Dutch parliament will be held later this year amid a polarised and splintered political landscape.

Mr Rutte’s Cabinet will likely remain in office as a caretaker administration until a new government is formed.

During provincial elections earlier this year, a populist pro-farmer party put Mr Rutte’s party into second place.

The defeat was seen as a possible incentive for Mr Rutte to do his utmost to hold together his coalition until its term ended in 2025.