Updated: Saturday, 28th March 2020 @ 12:21pm

Brexit: Bolton Councillor Sean Hornby tells MM what's next for UKIP...

Brexit: Bolton Councillor Sean Hornby tells MM what's next for UKIP...

| By Jacob Bentley-York

Following years of political turmoil, uncertainty and a growing feeling of Euroscepticism, Britain has finally left the European Union.

On a night that showcased a divided nation, January 31 was a poignant moment for UKIP who could reflect on a job well done.

Addressing the crowd at Parliament Square, former leader Nigel Farage hailed the occasion as modern Britain’s “greatest moment,” as the UK became independent from its European counterparts.

However, with the UKIP mandate arguably fulfilled, the question remains – what next for the party?

MM spoke to prominent UKIP councillor Sean Hornby to ask just that.

In 2015, UKIP monumentally gained 12.6 % of the electorate, coming third in terms of national votes as the country began to buy into the prospect of an EU Referendum.

Ever since, however, the party’s influence has diminished.

Farage’s departure in December 2018 added to a downward trajectory with the party gaining just 0.1% of the vote in last year’s election.

Speaking prior to the Brexit ‘deadline day’ on the matter, Councillor Hornby said: “At the moment UKIP needs to decide which direction it’s going in, forge a new identity and be able to regain the trust of the public.

“In areas where we have do have UKIP councillors, they are working hard and we are winning wards.

“On my part personally, I got re-elected on 39% of the vote in Little Lever, but I do understand that that’s not completely a vote for UKIP, but one for our hard work as a local team in the area all year round.”

UKIP’s rise to prominence to begin with was in due part to Farage who visited areas like Bolton during his time at the helm of the party.

Although he failed to win elected office, his success was ironically as a MEP, despite his active dislike and mistrust in the institution he represented.

Hornby, who has met up with Farage on many occasions, suggests that the former party leader’s long association with the EU has perhaps left a question mark over the party’s long term future.

He said: “If you look at Nigel’s Brexit Party – it was formed to do one thing and say one thing as ultimately it’s about Europe and I think that that was reflected in the general election result as they didn’t win a seat.

“UKIP, unfortunately, has been tarnished with that same image and I think that that’s wrong and unfair.

“For me, the party needs to start back at basics by engaging with the communities and to be seen to be the local champion and get away from the image that we are just about Europe.

“I hope the party can turn it round as there is so many more issues that we want to deal with, but there is no doubt that UKIP have an uphill struggle to survive.”