Ramunas Savickas has invested a lot of time and money on building a new life outside Lithuania. Since moving to Britain in 2005, he has worked as a driver, dishwasher, factory worker and vegetable picker before saving enough funds to start his own business in Wisbech, a rural town 100 miles north of London. Sitting in his restaurant, Smakas, which opened in 2014, Savickas expresses dismay at the very idea of the U.K. leaving the E.U. “I don’t want to think about it,” he says, “it is depressing.”
His anxiety is common among the roughly 10,000 Eastern Europeans, mainly Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians, who have made the rural Cambridgeshire town their home since the E.U. extended its borders eastward in 2004, guaranteeing them the right to work and live in the U.K. They and 2.1 million other Europeans working in the U.K. face an uneasy couple of weeks leading up to the June 23 referendum, when a vote to leave the political bloc could threaten their continuing presence in the country…
…That may be of little concern to native residents of Wisbech, who have watched their community go through wholesale changes over the past dozen years, as foreign nationals have come to comprise a third of its population. The transformation has happened so rapidly that there has been little time to adjust: in January, the center-right think tank Policy Exchange named the town the second “worst integrated” place in the U.K. Victoria Gillick, a local campaigner married to a Eurosceptic U.K. Independence Party councillor, told the Wisbech Standard: “By encouraging the immigration of cheap foreign labour, which Fenland authorities endorsed, we have allowed farmers and local multinational food businesses to create an ultra-low-wage economy in Fenland.”
Read the rest of Tara John’s piece on EU migrants here.