EU budget chief says UK rebate should end - report

European Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski of Poland addresses the European Parliament Budget Committee in Brussels April 27, 2010 on the 2011 EU's draft budget. REUTERS/Yves Herman

BERLIN (Reuters) - European Union budget chief Janusz Lewandowski was quoted by a newspaper Monday as saying Britain’s rebate from the bloc was unwarranted and should be repealed.

The rebate, won by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984, amounted to some six billion euros last year and was set to fall to three billion euros this year, said the German business daily Handelsblatt.

Britain said it believed the rebate was still justified, adding it would otherwise end up making a much larger contribution than France -- which has a population and economy of roughly the same size.

Lewandowski, in charge of the bloc’s 140-billion euro (117 billion pounds) budget, said in an interview with Handelsblatt that conditions for Britain, once one of the poorer EU members, had changed much since the rebate’s inception.

“The rebate for Great Britain has lost its original validity,” said Lewandowski. “Per capita income in Britain has risen substantially since the 1980s.”

Britain was unhappy with the suggestion.

“In the absence of a rebate, our net contribution to the EU would be around double what France’s is, and we don’t think that is acceptable,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman told reporters.

Additional reporting by Keith Weir in London; writing by Brian Rohan; editing by Andrew Roche