Nigel Farage attacks 'old Soviet' tactics as Brussels police shut down right-wing NatCon conference

Nigel Farage denounced a dramatic intervention by police in Brussels on Tuesday to close down a right-wing conference while he was speaking.

The Brexit figurehead denounced the action as akin to the “old Soviet Union” after the police, acting on a local mayor’s order, alleged that the National Conservatism conference posed a threat to public safety.

Former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who was also speaking at the gathering, condemned the “thought police” after organisers were initially given 15 minutes to shut it down.

Amid chaotic scenes, backers said they were accused by city authorities of creating a “public disturbance”, but that the event would only be closed down “gradually” over the afternoon.

People inside could stay for now, but would not be allowed back in by police if they left the venue, according to Yoram Hazony, chairman of the Washington-based Edmund Burke Foundation which organised the conference.

But the conference said it was seeking a court order to block the police action, and Mr Hazony told attendants: “I can assure you that we will continue tomorrow at a different venue.”

The two-day event had already been turned away from two other locations under pressure from police and local mayors before it began on Tuesday at a hall in the Brussels municipality of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode.

Emir Kir, the mayor of Saint-Josse, said he refused to tolerate the "far right".

"I have issued a mayoral order to ban the event 'National Conservatism conference' to guarantee public safety," he tweeted. "In Etterbeek, in Brussels City and in Saint-Josse, the far right is not welcome."

Mr Farage told reporters outside that he had left to avoid a clash with police, and accused the Brussels authorities of behaving “like the old Soviet Union”.

In a social media video, the backer of the Reform UK party said the conference was due to hear from an array of political, religious and royal dignitaries including “leaders of parties that will win European elections in countries this year in June”.

“And yet, because they are questioning ever-closer union, because they are questioning globalism, they are literally being shut down,” he said.

The conference heard from Mr Farage and Ms Braverman before the mayor’s order was announced. Conservative MP Miriam Cates was also due to speak on Tuesday, and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban was scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Mr Orban tweeted: “I guess they couldn’t take free speech any longer. The last time they wanted to silence me with the police was when the Communists set them on me in ‘88. We didn’t give up then and we will not give up this time either! #NoMigration #NoGender #NoWar

Both Ms Braverman and Ms Cates addressed the National Conservatism conference in London last year, which was disrupted by protesters and was dogged by controversy over some allegedly racist and misogynistic interventions by other speakers.

The former Home Secretary told Sky News in Brussels: “I'm here with like-minded democrats, democratically elected politicians, leaders and experts in our fields and we are here talking about the issues that matter to the British people but also many citizens around Europe: securing our borders, making our communities safer, and how to protect our countries.

“And it's a real shame that the thought police instructed by the mayor of Brussels saw fit to try and undermine and denigrate what is free speech and free debate,” Ms Braverman said.

Liz Truss attended another hard-Right gathering in Maryland outside Washington in February, the Conservative Political Action Conference, where the former Prime Minister claimed Britain was being run by a “deep state”.

Publishing a new book, she has in recent days called for the Supreme Court to be abolished, for the UK to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights, and for Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey to be sacked.

She stopped short of ruling out another attempt to be Tory leader, but such an idea was flatly rejected by former Conservative leader Lord Hague.