(Bloomberg) -- German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is optimistic that an agreement between Britain and the European Union can be reached to avoid a hard Brexit.

“I’m still optimistic that we can avoid a no-deal Brexit,” he said in an Bloomberg TV interview in Berlin. “That would be harmful in many aspects, politically and also economically."

With just seven weeks to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, Prime Minister Theresa May has asked the House of Commons for more time to renegotiate the U.K.’s deal on leaving the bloc. Brexit “is something we respect. But even respecting it does not mean that we do not regret it,” Altmaier said.

The German economy is in “good condition,” the minster said, adding that expected growth of about 1 percent for this year and 1.5 percent for 2020 is still "encouraging" for an advanced economy. The government will increase spending this year for families, infrastructure and defense, Altmaier said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Matthew Miller in New York at mtmiller@bloomberg.net;Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, Andrew Blackman, Iain Rogers

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