Nigel Farage has criticised “cancel culture” following the intervention of officials to close down the National Conservatism conference in Brussels.

The incident occurred as the former leader of the Brexit Party was concluding his speech at the event, which also included appearances by Hungary’s pro-Putin leader Viktor Orbán and two Conservative MPs.

Local authorities, led by Emir Kir, the mayor of the Brussels district of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, cited concerns over public safety as the reason for ordering the conference to cease. Kir stated, “In Etterbeek, in Brussels City, and in Saint-Josse, the far-right is not welcome.”

Scheduled speakers included Tory MP Suella Braverman, who was dismissed from her role as home secretary the previous year, and Conservative MP Miriam Cates. Organisers of the conference announced their intention to challenge Kir’s directive legally, asserting that there were no grounds for shutting down the gathering, which comprised politicians, intellectuals, journalists, students, civic leaders, and concerned citizens. They highlighted the peaceful nature of the event and questioned the need for such drastic action.

Although police arrived at the venue within the city’s European Quarter approximately two hours after the conference commenced, they did not forcibly shut down proceedings. Instead, they informed organisers of the necessity to close and prevent further entry. Police threatened to remove attendees if the building was not evacuated, but later opted against this, choosing to block new arrivals instead. Nigel Farage reportedly left the building mid speech when tipped off of the police presence. He described it as a “discreet exit.”.

This was the third venue selected by conference organisers, as two previous locations had been cancelled at the last minute due to what was described as political pressure.

Nigel Farage criticised the closure, arguing that attendees were “respectable people” and highlighted the absence of significant protests against the event. He characterised the incident as an attempt to suppress an ideology.

Suella Braverman condemned the police action, accusing them of undermining free speech. She reiterated her commitment to discussing important issues, such as border security, at the conference.

Rishi Sunak had faced calls to prevent Braverman’s attendance, with Labour shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth urging the Chancellor to prevent her from lending legitimacy to what he termed “divisive and dangerous individuals.”

This incident echoes previous controversies within the Conservative Party regarding attendance at National Conservatism conferences, including one in Rome in 2020. Conservative backbencher Daniel Kawczynski was reprimanded by the party for his participation, with some speakers’ views, including those of Viktor Orbán, drawing criticism.

Both Suella Braverman and Miriam Cates had spoken at the National Conservatism Conference in London the previous year, an event that was marred by protests.

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