The Belgian government has effectively collapsed, barely two months before the country takes over the EU presidency.
It followed a decision by the Flemish Liberal party to pull out of the governing coalition.
The move prompted delight among Flemish nationalists in the Belgian parliament.
About 30 MPs sang “they will never tame the Flemish lion” to celebrate. A banner was unfurled claiming independence for Flanders amid cries of ‘Let Belgium Die’.
Alexander de Croo, party chairman of the Open VLD, said it had lost confidence in the government over its failure to resolve a dispute about the rights of French speakers in Flemish areas around Brussels.
The prime minister visited the Royal Palace to tender his government’s resignation to King Albert. He has not yet decided whether to accept it.
It is the third time Yves Leterme has offered to resign. His latest coalition government has been in place for only five months.
A vote on banning full-face Muslim veils, a move which would be a first in Europe, has been postponed until the political deadlock has been resolved.