Nigel Farage hits out at 'cancel culture' after police move to shut down conference

Nigel Farage has hit out at "cancel culture" after officers moved to shut down the National Conservatism conference in Brussels.

Local officials arrived as the former Brexit Party leader was finishing a speech at the event, which is also due to hear from Hungary's pro-Putin leader Viktor Orban and two Conservative MPs.

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Emir Kir, the mayor of Brussels district Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, said he had issued an order banning the conference from taking place on Tuesday "to guarantee public safety".

He added: "In Etterbeek, in Brussels City and in Saint-Josse, the far-right is not welcome."

Tory MP Suella Braverman, who was sacked as home secretary last year, was also due to speak on Tuesday, as well as Conservative MP Miriam Cates.

Conference organisers said they were launching a legal challenge to Mr Kir's order, adding: "There is no public disturbance and no grounds to shut down a gathering of politicians, intellectuals, journalists, students, civic leaders, and concerned citizens.

"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?"

Police officers arrived two hours into the event near the city's European Quarter to inform organisers it must close.

Officers did not appear to force the event to shut down and speeches continued.

Sky's political correspondent Darren McCaffery, who is at the scene, said police initially told the venue owner that if the building isn't evacuated they will start removing people.

However, they later said they "would not be dragging people out" and instead the tactic was to stop anyone new from entering the venue.

He said this is the third venue chosen by conference organisers, after two others cancelled at the last minute "due to political pressure".

Police 'shutting down ideology'

Mr Farage said the conference attendees were "respectable people" and "there's no protest of significance" happening against it.

"It's about closing down an ideology," he told Sky News.

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Speaking to broadcasters as he left the venue, he said it would be closing down shortly and "I decided to make a discreet exit".

"I'm not going to stay when the police storm the place and get everybody out. I'm not going to get involved in a fight."

He added that he had "personally" experienced cancel culture in Brussels, such as restaurants and pubs refusing to service him, but now "global media" can see it happening.

Ms Braverman accused police of trying to "undermine and denigrate" free speech, saying she was there to talk about "issues that matter", including border security.

Rishi Sunak had faced pressure to block her 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".

National Conservatism is a global, right-wing movement which claims that traditional values are being "undermined and overthrown".

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.

In her speech Ms Braverman claimed "it is not racist" to want control of our borders, while Ms Cates claimed that falling birth rates are "the one overarching threat.. to the whole of Western society" and that "cultural Marxism" was "destroying our children's souls".