Following his announcement that he will leave his post as Germany's finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble said he was encouraged by the progress being made to form a new government following Angela Merkel's re-election as chancellor.
"I'm optimistic that you will have a new coalition, a new government, before Christmas break," Schäuble told attendees of the Institute of International Finance annual meeting in Washington. "This government will stay on the German course economically," with a market orientation and social inclusiveness, he said, adding that Germany's future can work in, "a strong, unified, relevant Europe."
Looking to the rest of Europe, Schäuble said he hoped the ongoing tensions in Catalonia could be resolved with minimal damage. And he said Italy is doing better economically as growth figures have improved.
He told attendees that he recently spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, and came away with a positive impression.
"It's fantastic that we have such a pro-European French president," Schäuble said.
When discussing the global repercussions of the U.K. decision to leave the European Union, he said EU members realize that they must stick together to avoid an unreasonable Brexit arrangement.
"Now we agree also that, of course, we have to minimize the potential damage for Europe as well as for [the] U.K.," Schäuble noted. "We have always agreed [that] Brexit, will not be an instrument to make things better," and that the goal is to minimize the damage of the U.K. leaving the EU.
"We hope the discussions in the U.K. are moving in that direction," he said. "People like my good friend Phil Hammond, who's rooting for soft Brexit, are becoming stronger."
Hammond, the U.K.'s chancellor of the exchequer, has become a target for some conservative members of parliament after saying the government would spend nothing to prepare for failed negotiations with European Union until the last minute. His critics charge that he is insufficiently supportive of Brexit.