UK-based businesses and people will be unable to hold onto their .eu domains after Brexit, even if there is a Withdrawl Agreement in place, according to new plans outlined by the European Commission.
While there is still much uncertainty around the exact terms and conditions of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the EU have now imposed a strict two-month cancellation period for any .eu domain registered to a UK address, even if the owner is a European citizen, and refused to add an appeals process.
And even if there is a deal, it remains highly likely that .eu domains owned by UK citizens will be forcibly closed down, as the transition period places the UK outside of the EU.
As a result, an estimated 750,000 registered people and businesses in the UK will have to ensure their .eu domain is linked to a physical address inside the European Union, or perhaps sue, if they don’t want to lose their internet address.
The updated policy was announced in an update on the .eu registry operator EURid’s website, and expands a strict policy post-Brexit.
European Commission’s advice
The European Commission has issued a notice to stakeholders concerning dotEU domain names registered by UK residents. The notice reads:
“Subject to any transitional arrangement that may be contained in a possible withdrawal agreement, the EU regulatory framework for the .eu Top Level Domain will no longer apply to the United Kingdom as from the withdrawal date. […]
“As of the withdrawal date, undertakings and organisations that are established in the United Kingdom but not in the EU and natural persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date. Accredited .eu Registrars will not be entitled to process any request for the registration of or for renewing registrations of .eu domain names by those undertakings, organisations and persons.”
This means that registrants of dotEU domains, where the registered name holder (RNH) address is in either the UK or Gibraltar (GI), will no longer be eligible to hold those domain names.
These registrants must either update their ownership to a valid person or entity in an eligible Country (e.g., European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway) or the registry will revoke the existing holders’ rights, which means deletion of the domain.
Under the new guidance, if there is a no-deal Brexit, the owners of any .eu domains registered in the UK, regardless of who they are owned by, will be informed they have two months to transfer their domains to a different person or entity based in Europe, or the domain will be cancelled and inoperable.
With the UK’s exit from the EU currently scheduled for 29th March at 11pm (GMT) that would give around three-quarters of a million registrants just eight weeks to find a way to move their domains or risk losing them on May 30.
The EU then foresees putting all the unmoved domains back on the market one year later, in batches, starting May 30, 2020.
UK government advice
In official guidance put out over the Christmas break, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) warned that “if you currently hold a .eu registration… you should consider transferring your registration to another top level domain… Examples of other top level domains include .com, .co.uk, .net or .org.”
Speaking specifically about a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, it goes on:
“You may wish to seek advice from your local domain name registrar on whether the terms of your contractual agreement provide for any recourse in the event of revocation of a .eu registration. You may also want to seek legal advice.”
“Millions of unintended consequences”
Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat MP for Kingston and Surbiton, has been fighting Brexit since before the referendum, and as the former secretary of state for Energy and climate change is clear the impact it has on business.
Commenting on the developments, Davey said: “It’s one of the millions of unintended consequences of this economic car-crash. You can’t pull out of 40 years of integration, trade deals and infrastructure and think everything will be just like it was.”
“From UK tech start-ups racing to Berlin for market access, to a talent collapse for UK start-ups trying to recruit, to tax chaos for online retailers – the UK’s flourishing online service sector is now being hit from every angle. The government doesn’t care about the digital economy in practice – only in their media soundbites.
“Domain names are the home of your brand on the web. UK firms obviously only have access to owning EU domains if we’re part of the EU! Losing your web address will be a kick in the stomach for online retailers, the digital economy and the green economy.
“With the chaos in Westminster and across the country, Corbyn and May need to wake up to ‘project reality’ – not only have they engineered an economic collapse that’s undermining our leading role in the digital economy, they’ve also lost any mandate that a wafer-thin opinion poll fuelled with lies 3 years ago gave them.
“For British retailers, Westminster has failed you: me and likeminded colleagues from all sides have been fighting this behind the scenes, but the extremists in both big parties have bullied their MPs into putting party above country, and their personal political ambitions above your business. Fortunately there’s still time to stop this whole shambles.”