As Farage spoke, the crowds dashed for the exit – with good reason

Nigel Farage
Nigel Farage's speech was cut short at the National Conservatism conference in Brussels on Tuesday - Yves Herman/REUTERS

As Nigel Farage strolled around the stage regaling tales of his decades in Brussels, panicked officials and members of the press started heading for the exit.

Had the former Ukip leader, a natural entertainer, lost his touch for captivating an audience?

Or was it the three police officers brandishing two identical court orders  – one in French, the other in Dutch – that were more entertaining?

They had been dispatched to “Le club Claridge”, a venue in the Belgian capital more used to holding Turkish weddings than political conferences, to shut down the Right-wing National Conservatism event being held there.

Emir Kir, the mayor of the Brussels commune of Saint Josse, had signed a court order demanding the closure of the event with “immediate effect”, on the grounds that speeches by the likes of Mr Farage and Suella Braverman could cause public disorder.

Outside the venue’s doors, Anthony Gilland, a former maths teacher turned think-tanker, remonstrated with the officers carrying out their orders.

Anthony Gilland (left) speaks to the press after police try to shut down the event
Anthony Gilland (left) speaks to the press after police try to shut down the event - Anadolu

A gaggle of journalists soon formed round them, this reporter clambering up a metal fence, positioned to keep protesters out, for a better vantage point.

Mr Gilland, the chief of staff at the MCC Brussels think-tank, had been standing outside in the rain all morning, trying to keep order amid the threat that Left-wing Brussels politicians would succeed in ousting the conference from a third venue.

There had been warnings all morning that the police could arrive to turf out hundreds of delegates attending the second NatCon conference to be held in Brussels since 2022 – the first had passed with little publicity.

When I arrived at the venue, a sign reading “We are very sorry. The doors are shut. If you are a speaker call this number” had been placed on the door.

Only speakers and journalists were permitted in. Paying guests were left in the rain. The ban was later extended to everyone.

Instead of barging in uninvited, police officers simply strolled in to drop off their court orders and then retreated across the road.

A Dutch-speaking member of the MCC Brussels team was left with one copy, with the other in the hands of French-speaking Prof Bill Durodie, who was manning the reception.

Journalists tried to catch a glimpse of the orders to establish the exact justification used by the police for closing down the event.

The Telegraph can reveal the order said: “This event could undeniably lead to violent reactions [and] considerable disturbances of public order.”

Nigel Farage leaves the building
Nigel Farage leaves the building - JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE / Avalon

It also claimed the speakers could hold “provocative and discriminatory” views that are “deemed homophobic, non-respectful of people and minorities”.

A deal was brokered with the police: the event was allowed to continue, but nobody else would be let into the venue. Five police officers were placed on the door.

Upstairs in the manager’s office, Lassaad Ben Yaghlane, the club owner, and Prof Frank Furedi, MCC Brussels’s director, were on the phone to lawyers attempting to mount a legal challenge.

Police officers stand on the door not allowing ticket holders entry
Police officers stand on the door, barring entry to ticket holders - Anadolu

The mood turned tense, nobody genuinely knew whether the two-day event would go into its second day – with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, due to deliver a keynote address.

As Prof Furedi, a Tottenham season ticket holder, hit the phones of journalists to raise awareness of the situation, I joked: “What’s easier, this or watching Spurs?”

What followed can only be described as an expletive response that soon turned to smiles.

The lawyers had been on the phone. There was an air of confidence that the conference would see its second day, at the same venue.

Most of the plaudits, however, went to Mr Ben Yaghlane, who despite openly telling The Telegraph he disagreed with his guests’ politics, he believed that freedom of speech was more important.

The price, a battle with the local mayor, whose office threatened to withdraw his venue’s operating licence. His car was also towed.

He may have not left his office – that was his son’s job to run operations on the venue’s dance floor – but he was held up as a hero by NatCon’s organisers, who insisted their gathering couldn’t have gone ahead without him.