December 18, 2018 5:42 pm
Updated: December 18, 2018 6:19 pm

Belgian PM offers to resign amid uproar over UN migration pact

WATCH: Members of United Nations adopt migration pact despite rejection by U.S., other countries


Belgium Prime Minister Charles Michel offered to resign on Tuesday after opponents tabled a no confidence vote in a political crisis triggered by differences over immigration.

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In office since 2014, Michel lost the support of the biggest party in his coalition, the Flemish N-VA, last week in protest at his support of a U.N. pact to foster cooperation over the world’s 21 million refugees.

Canada is among the 164 countries that signed the non-binding pact.

READ MORE: Belgian government loses majority after agreeing to sign UN migration pact

On Tuesday, the 42-year-old lawyer sought backing from left-wing opposition parties so he could hold on to power until parliamentary elections in May.

Instead, the socialists and greens tabled a motion of no confidence in parliament, triggering his offer to quit.

“I must respect the situation. I therefore take the decision to offer my resignation and will go to the king,” Michel, who has been in politics since winning a provincial councilor post at 18, told parliament.

WATCH: Canadians should feel proud to sign the UN Compact on Migration

Belgium‘s King Philippe has not taken a decision on whether to accept his offer, the royal palace said.

The king may ask Michel to stay as a caretaker but with limited powers, potentially hampering efforts to rein in the budget and reform social security. He could also speak to other political leaders to try and resolve the issue, or dissolve parliament and trigger an early vote in 40 days.

READ MORE: UN migration pact is not legally binding for Canada — here’s what it will do

Belgium‘s political crisis comes as Europe heads into election mode next year, with seven EU countries plus the European Parliament all going to the polls.

The bloc has been grappling with an upsurge of migrants since 2015 when more than 1 million people entered Europe, many fleeing civil war in Syria and poverty in Africa.

READ MORE: Canadian head of UN migration conference slams ‘misinformation’ about migration pact

The United States and some other nations, mostly in former communist Eastern Europe, have opposed this year’s U.N. pact, arguing it could encourage immigration.

After the N-VA’s departure, Michel’s slimmed down three-party coalition consisted of his French-speaking liberal MR and two Flemish parties.

— With a file from Global News

© 2018 Reuters

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