Police move to shut down conference due to hear from Braverman and Farage

Authorities in Brussels have ordered the closure of a right-wing conference that was due to hear from British politicians including Nigel Farage and Suella Braverman.

Emir Kir, the mayor of Brussels district Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, said he had issued an order banning the National Conservatism 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.”

Belgium Conservatism Conference
Nigel Farage speaks during the National Conservatism conference in Brussels (Virginia Mayo/AP)

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 Brussels mayor Philippe Close of seeking to “cancel” the event.

According to a report on social media, police arrived while Mr Farage, the honorary president of Reform UK, was addressing the event, giving attendees 15 minutes to leave the venue.

Footage later showed police officers entering the venue.

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

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?”

They added that police were preventing people entering the venue and blocking delivery of food and water to the conference.

In a video on social media, Mr Farage said the Brussels authorities were behaving “like the old Soviet Union”.

He said: “At the meeting, over the next two days, you’ve got the prime minister of Hungary, you’ve got a bishop, you’ve got members of the European royal families coming, well-known international businessmen and women, politicians, 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.”

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 Ms Braverman’s attendance at the conference, with shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth urging the Prime Minister 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.