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16 April 2024

Inside the police vs the NatCons

A failed attempt to shut down the conference in Brussels made Nigel Farage’s point for him.

By Freddie Hayward

Brussels

Nigel Farage has never looked more satisfied. Europe’s hard right was handed a gift today when the police tried to shut down the National Conservatism conference in Brussels. Farage was speaking as the police arrived to deliver a public order notice which said they had 15 minutes to shut down the conference. 

The order came from the local Socialist Party mayor Emir Kir who tweeted that the “far-right is not welcome” and explained that he banned the conference to ensure “public safety”. The police said one reason for the order were reports that counter-protesters were planning on attending the venue. There was no public disorder within the venue itself. Organisers have said that they are challenging the order in the courts. 

Nonetheless, a small group of police entered the building after being invited in by organisers who wanted to take them through to the green room. But the officers decided to leave after walking through the venue’s lobby. One police officer said he did not want to cause a scene – perhaps sensing that it was best to avoid the image of them entering a peaceful political gathering.

Instead, the police lined the entrance to prevent people from entering. The effect being that attendees could not leave without forfeiting their access to the event. The French National Rally MEP Patricia Chagnon was denied entry by the police. 

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While the organisers engaged with the police, Suella Braverman, the former home secretary who is looking to build support within the Conservative Party, addressed a largely empty auditorium because most attendees were in the foyer to hear Farage condemning the police and the EU at large. “If anything has convinced me about leaving the EU it’s the events of today,” he declared. The question now is whether the conference successfully challenges the court order and is able to continue. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is due to speak tomorrow. Senator JD Vance, who is being touted as a possible vice president to Donald Trump, is reportedly drafting a letter to the Belgium embassy condemning the incident.

The event is being held on the same road as the European Commission’s competition authority. The symbolism is undeniable. The actions of the police and the mayor will lead to far greater coverage of the conference than it would otherwise have received. It is also a testament to the conference’s argument that even at the heart of Europe free speech is under threat – a point the attendees are poised to make.

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