The professor at Vilnius University’s Economics Faculty says that Britain is an attractive destination for Lithuanian migrants for other reasons than social benefits: ease of finding a job, sizeable Lithuanian expatriate community and their command of the English language.
Lithuanians had been migrating to Britain even before Lithuania joined the EU, when they had even less access to the country’s welfare system, Lazutka says.
“The benefit restrictions will not be important to Lithuanians,” Lazutka told BNS. “These days, hardly anyone go there [to the UK] to live off benefits, since Great Britain has a smaller welfare state than Scandinavian countries or Germany, Austria and France.”
Under a deal concluded by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and the European Council, London will be able to institute a seven-year break on in-work benefits for EU migrants. Moreover, parents would be entitled to smaller child benefits for children left behind in their home countries.
After announcing the deal, Cameron said Britain would hold an in-out referendum on EU membership in June.
Lazutka says that in the case of Brexit – Britain leaving the EU – Lithuanians in the UK could face serious challenges, since their work and travel rights could be restricted.
On the other hand, Brexit would not be a significant blow to Lithuanian exporters who mostly trade with EU countries in Eastern and Central Europe.
Over 95,000 Lithuanians live in England, according to census data from 2011, almost 40,000 of them in London.