I am currently reading this article, and the first passage says,

Such is its devilish complexity, Brexit is often portrayed as a game of 3-D chess, understandable only to the grandest of grand masters. This is how best to understand the series of seismic but impenetrable battles being waged between Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government and his opponents in Westminster this week: battles that are not primarily about what they claim—whether for this motion or that amendment—but rather part of a much larger but simpler game in which each side is trying to ensure that it is not outmaneuvered by the other in a way that will make victory or defeat inevitable. The problem is that, in Brexit, the two sides have thus far been evenly matched and always able to extend the game to avoid a conclusion. ...

I kind very obscurely understand this passage, but I am unable to understand especially the bold part. Can someone help me to analyze this part, in such a ways disecting section by section so that I can understand? ( For instance, what are battles that are nor primarily about what they claim?? )

And what is the "relationship" with the line whether for this motion or that amendment ( Is "for this motion or that amendment" a kind of "this A and that B"? )

Thank you in advance.

1 Answer 1


Battles that are about X: battles which are being fought because of X. E.g. battles that are about winning territory for yourself

Battles that are not about X: battles which have a cause that is not X. E.g. battles that are not about protecting democracy (but are instead about beating the Soviets).

Battles that are not primarily about X: battles that may be partially caused by X - X plays some role - but are mostly about something else. E.g. battles that are not primarily about protecting ourselves, but are mostly about stealing oil.

Battles that are not primarily about what they claim: battles whose main cause is something other than what people say it is. E.g. I want your property. You have stolen food from your neighbors - this bothers me a little, but it's not as important to me as acquiring your property. I declare war on you and claim that the cause of the war is your stealing from your neighbors (but this is a lie). This battle is not primarily about what I claim.

In context, the British politicians are fighting battles against each other. They claim the battles are being fought over specific legislation (e.g. what should the boarder of Northern Ireland look like). But their main objective is not the specific legislation.

The parenthetical "whether for this motion or that amendment" describes what the British politicians claim their battles are about.

Consider this simpler example:

What I claim - that eating donuts is healthy - is not true.

Or, in my invented context from above:

The battle was not fought because of what I claimed - that you had stolen from your neighbors - but rather because I wanted your land.


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