Who's laughing now? Brexit's biggest backer just got obliterated

brexit theresa may eu meddling uk election_00020202
brexit theresa may eu meddling uk election_00020202

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Story highlights

  • Voters bolt from the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party
  • The very party that did so much to set Britain on its course to leave the European Union appears to be collapsing

Carole Walker is a political analyst who worked as a political news correspondent for the BBC. The opinions in this article belong solely to the author.

(CNN)Remember that picture of Nigel Farage and Donald Trump, smiling broadly in the golden glow of victory? Well, today many in the party that Farage used to lead are staring blankly at defeat and wondering what the future holds for his movement -- the pro-Brexit UK Independence Party -- which did so much to deliver Brexit in the first place.

Results from local elections in some parts of Britain show that UKIP has been wiped out in parts of England that were once considered its strongholds.
In Lincolnshire -- one of England's most Eurosceptic counties -- UKIP lost all 10 of its seats on the council, helping the Conservatives to a big majority. It is an ominous sign for UKIP's new leader, Paul Nuttall, who is hoping to win a parliamentary seat in the county at next month's general election.
His party has lost all of its local lawmakers, known as councillors, in other pro-Brexit counties, including Essex and Hampshire.
It is important to remember that these results will not necessarily be repeated at the general election next month. Voters do not always vote for the same party at the local and national level.
But they do provide a snapshot of the public mood -- and all signs indicate that UKIP's demise is providing a further boost for the Conservatives.
UKIP's local government spokesman has said that Prime Minister Theresa May is "painting herself in UKIP's colors." A leading figure in the main opposition Labour Party accused her of "hunting down UKIP supporters."
There is no doubt that many former UKIP voters have been won over by Mrs. May's tough stance on Brexit. Her warning to the EU commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that she would be a "bloody difficult woman," is music to their ears.
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May stands with European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker at the front door of 10 Downing Street on April 26, 2017 in London, England. Prime Minister May is to hold her first major talks with E.U leaders since calling a general election in a bid to strengthen her position in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 26:  Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May stands with European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker at the front door of 10 Downing Street on April 26, 2017 in London, England. Prime Minister May is to hold her first major talks with E.U leaders since calling a general election in a bid to strengthen her position in forthcoming Brexit negotiations.  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

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Just three years ago, UKIP won the elections to the European parliament in Britain, delivering an "earthquake" to the established political parties. Its rise was a significant factor in the decision by the former Prime Minister David Cameron to call the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU. Its leader at the time, Nigel Farage, played a huge -- if controversial role -- in the 'Leave' campaign.
Now it looks unlikely the party will win a single seat in parliament, its local base is in tatters and after Brexit, it will no longer have any Members of European parliament.
The reason for its dramatic decline is clear.
Theresa May has set about delivering the referendum decision and is taking Britain out of the European Union. She has said Britain will leave the single market, regain control over immigration and will no longer be subject to rulings from the European Court of Justice. She is fulfilling the dreams of many of those who turned to UKIP in the past. The main reason for UKIP's existence has gone.
UKIP's leader in Wales, Neil Hamilton, has admitted the party appears to have collapsed. Former MP Douglas Carswell has described himself as UKIP's first and last member of parliament, saying, "We all know it's over."
Other senior figures in the party are insisting it is too soon to write off UKIP. They warn of the danger of "backsliding," with the government giving in to demands from Brussels, in order to reach a deal. Suzanne Evans, the party's spokeswoman for health, said that although UKIP has reached its peak, it has an opportunity to re-brand itself.
What does this rebranding look like? UKIP's manifesto for the coming general election includes banning the burka in public, slashing spending on foreign aid and reducing taxes on popular take-out meals such as fish and chips.
But the general election is all about Brexit. Theresa May has already demonstrated her readiness to square up to the rest of the EU, accusing the "bureaucrats of Brussels" of threatening the UK and trying to interfere in the British election.
And now, she appears to be poised to obliterate the very party that did so much to set Britain on its course to leave the European Union.