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Europeans in Britain used to feel at home. Now they have their doubts

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The liberal command to “celebrate diversity” misses that there is often little to celebrate. It takes a truly privileged and cosseted mind to imagine that identities are always a joyful embrace of essential natures. Minorities can be manufactured by the prejudiced and powerful who need outsiders for their supporters to define themselves against. If the prejudice and power did not exist, nor would they.

Brexit Britain may not be up to much but it has become a world leader in creating identities no one needed or wanted. You would have been met with incomprehension in 2015 if you had declared yourself a “Leaver” or “Remainer” or talked about European Union nationals in Britain and Britons in Europe as if they were aliens, who must meet the exacting demands of a suspicious bureaucracy.

Until 2016, Europeans in Britain no more thought of themselves as members of a minority than their British counterparts on the continent did. The 3.7 million Europeans, or 5 million if you include their British spouses and children, had lived, loved and worked in Britain for decades in many cases. They weren’t a minority or an identity. They just were. They’ve changed now, but not through any empowering choice on their part. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Michael Gove turned their presence into a vote-winning grievance and their world fell apart.

The disorientation of Brexit has forced questions that have cut to people’s souls: what is my future, where is home? As the sports writer Philippe Auclair said: “We ask ourselves: is it possible to belong, as we desperately want to – this is our home, not a foreign posting, and most of us have nowhere else to ‘go........

© The Guardian