Police order closure of right-wing conference attended by Nigel Farage and Suella Braverman

Officials ordered the controversial National Conservatism (NatCon) Conference to be shut down to ‘guarantee public safety’

Jabed Ahmed
Tuesday 16 April 2024 19:30 BST
Police shut down right-wing conference attended by Nigel Farage in Brussels

Police in Brussels have stormed a right-wing conference attended by Nigel Farage and Suella Braverman after orders for the event to be shut down.

Local authorities ordered the controversial National Conservatism (NatCon) Conference to be closed to “guarantee public safety”.

Ms Braverman, the former home secretary, and Mr Farage, the former Ukip leader, were among the political names advertised to speak at the event on Tuesday alongside right-wing Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orban.

Officers arrived after the event began at Claridge’s, a venue in central Brussels, to tell organisers it would be shut down. According to a report on social media, police arrived while Mr Farage was addressing the event, giving attendees 15 minutes to leave the venue. However, officers did not appear to force the event to shut down and speeches continued.

Police have now said they will not let anyone else into the venue and people can leave and not re-enter.

The conference has already had to move location twice after mayors within the Brussels region refused the meeting’s chosen venues.

Police officers at the venue after the National Conservatism Conference was ordered to be shut down (Getty)

Emir Kir, mayor of the area where the conference was held, said: “I issued an order from the mayor to ban the National Conservatism Conference event to guarantee public safety.

“In Etterbeek, Brussels City and Saint-Josse, the far right is not welcome.”

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.

Officers secure the area outside the venue (Reuters)

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

Suella Braverman railed against the ECHR in her speech, before the police arrived (Reuters)

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.”

Farage entering the venue before it was shut down (Reuters)

During her keynote speech at the conference, Ms Braverman said the UK lacks the “political will” to leave the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The former home secretary attacked the ECHR as incompatible with parliamentary democracy and the court charged with enforcing it as “profoundly undemocratic and politicised”.

The Conservative MP, a long-time opponent of the ECHR, said the UK could leave the convention “at the stroke of a pen” with the prime minister sending a letter giving six months’ notice to the Council of Europe.

Nigel Farage blasts Brussels before police shut down the conference

The conference is hosted by the Edmund Burke Foundation think tank, which declares its aim to be “strengthening the principles of national conservatism in Western countries”.

Ms Braverman and Mr Orban were unveiled as the event’s keynote speakers last month.

Mr Orban is widely seen as Russian president Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in the European Union and has been accused of launching a crackdown on gay rights and press freedom.

The conference is also due to hear from Conservative MP Miriam Cates later on Tuesday, before hosting a speech by Mr Orban on Wednesday.

The Liberal Democrats criticised Ms Braverman over her plans to “share a platform with a far-right authoritarian”.

Far-right Flemish separatist party Vlaams Belang member Filip Dewinter stands behind police officers at the entrance (Reuters)

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran said at the time of the announcement: “No politician should be sharing the stage with an ally of Vladimir Putin as he carries out his barbaric invasion of Ukraine.”

She added that it was “staggering” that a former home secretary “would think that this is the right thing to do”.

“From cries of a conspiratorial deep state to sharing a platform with a far-right authoritarian, the Conservative Party has gone completely off the rails,” she added.

The doors to the event were closed, with people unable to enter or re-enter (Shutterstock)

Mr 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”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in