What game are Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, and Emmanuel Macron, France’s President, playing with Boris Johnson, Britain’s Prime Minister? Are they playing cat and mouse or have they opened the door to a new era of European detente?

With what seems unprecedented haste, the German Chancellor went out of her way yesterday to clarify that she had not said her British counterpart – as widely reported in the UK press-  has only 30 days to come up with an alternative to the Irish backstop.