Brussels police move to shut down right-wing conference where Nigel Farage was speaking

Police reportedly stormed the event while Nigel Farage was on stage. Credit: National Conservatism/X

Officials in Brussels moved to shut down a right-wing conference that credited Nigel Farage and Suella Braverman as some of its guest speakers.

A mayor in the Belgian capital ordered an issue to ban the National Conservativism Conference from taking place today in a bid "to guarantee public safety".

Police reportedly arrived while Mr Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK, was on stage addressing the event, giving attendees just 15 minutes to leave.

“In Etterbeek, in Brussels City and in Saint-Josse, the far-right is not welcome,” said Emir Kir, the mayor of Brussels district Saint-Josse-ten-Nood.

Downing Street described the reports as "extremely disturbing" and argued the move was "damaging to free speech", while Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said it was "unacceptable".

Political Correspondent at The Sun, Martina Bet, uploaded footage showing police officers entering the venue.

However, officers did not appear to force the event to shut down and speeches continued.

The conference had already struggled to find a venue, with two event spaces cancelling the National Conservatives’ booking in the face of public pressure – leading organisers to accuse the Brussels mayor Philippe Close of seeking to “cancel” the event.

National Conservatism said on its official X account it is "legally challenging the order to shut down #NatConBrussels2 at the new, third venue".

"There is no public disturbance and no grounds to shut down a gathering of politicians, intellectuals, journalists, students, civic leaders, and concerned citizens," it added."The police entered the venue on our invitation, saw the proceedings and the press corps, and quickly withdrew. Is it possible they witnessed how peaceful the event is?"

In a video uploaded to X, Mr Farage claimed the events were reminiscent of "the old Soviet Union, no alternative view allowed," adding: "I might have had my reservations about the way the Conservative Government have carried out Brexit but if anything convinced me that we did the right thing was what happened in that place."

Ms Braverman said: “It’s laughable that Brussels thought police were sent out to shut down a conference of democratically elected politicians representing the views of millions of people.

“They clearly didn’t want to hear about how we can secure our borders and protect our citizens.

“The more ridiculous their attempts to shut us down, the more cheered I am that we’re winning the arguments.”

On Tuesday afternoon, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: “Clearly, these reports are extremely disturbing.

“The prime minister is a strong supporter and advocator for free speech and he believes that should be fundamental to any democracy.

“Speaking more broadly to the principle of such events, he is very clear that cancelling events or preventing attendance and no-platforming speakers is damaging to free speech and to democracy as a result.

“He is very clear that free debate and the exchange of views is vital, even where you disagree.”

The spokeswoman added she was not aware of any plans to raise the issue with the Belgian government.

However, the prime minister of Belgium, Alexander De Croo, condemned the actions of his mayor and said "banning political meetings is unconstitutional".

The conference had been due to hear from two Conservative MPs, Ms Braverman and Miriam Cates, later on Tuesday, before hosting a speech by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban on Wednesday.

Rishi Sunak had faced pressure to block former home secretary Ms Braverman’s attendance at the conference, with Labour shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth urging him to stop the former home secretary “giving oxygen to these divisive and dangerous individuals”.

Under Boris Johnson’s government in 2020, Conservative backbencher Daniel Kawczynski was reprimanded for attending a National Conservatism conference in Rome, with a Tory spokesman condemning the views of some other speakers, including Mr Orban.

Both Ms Braverman and Ms Cates addressed the National Conservatism conference in London last year, which was disrupted by protesters.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…