A diaspora is waking up with a fright to a life without rightsby Giles Tremlett / September 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
Published in October 2016 issue of Prospect Magazine
The police rang our doorbell at 3am on the hottest night of the summer, while Madrileños were being gently oven-roasted at a still and steady 30 degrees centigrade. I opened the door, semi-naked, to find two municipal police officers staring at me. The fan in a guest’s room was keeping the downstairs neighbour awake, so could we turn it off? I wish it had stayed that polite, but they wanted to play games, making me march dozily around the apartment doing pointless tests with the fans. When we got fed up and asked them to leave, tempers frayed on both sides, a policeman’s boot was wedged against our door, passports were demanded and they eventually stomped off, promising to “file a report” on us. One officer’s eyes burned with hatred. For the past 25 years my encounters with Madrid’s police have been respectful, easygoing affairs and, for a day or two, I was convinced that only my new status as a future non-citizen of the European Union could explain the change.
This is classic Brexpat paranoia: a common, exaggerated and understandable malaise among the 1.2m fearful Britons living in the EU. We are the reverse side of the coin that bears the Polish plumber’s face on its front. Logic dictates that everything that happens to him in the future must also happen to us, and if the British are already showing hatred towards European immigrants, it is easy to imagine that others might hate us in return.