UK organisations with a .eu website need to act now

08 Feb 2019

With the outcome of Brexit still highly uncertain – we still don’t know if there will be a deal or no deal – organisations with an .eu domain who are based in the UK need to be prepared to act now or very soon. Don’t expect your ISP, your domain registrant or digital agency to remind you that you need to do something. 

The .eu domain is designed for entities that are registered in a country that is a member of the European Economic Area. It has been operating since 2006 and there are around 4 million .eu domains in total, of which over 300,000 are based in the UK. When the UK leaves the EU – most likely on the 29thMarch 2019 - UK companies will no longer have the right to operate with an .eu domain. However, the timing of when organisations need to act may change if we do get a deal which has a transition period, or if Article 50 gets extended.

This means, ironically, an organisation like Leave.EU needs to plan what it is going to do, although we rather suspect they will be celebrating their inability to continue with their.eu domain.

What’s happening to my .eu domain?

EURid – the body that manages the .eu registry – has issued official advice on Brexit that states, after the UK leaves the EU:

  • New registrations (or renewals) for .eu domains by UK-based individuals and organisations will not be allowed
  • UK organisations with an .eu website will have two months to transfer ownership to an individual or entity that does operate within the EEA
  • After the two-month limit, any .eu domain operating from a UK entity will be withdrawn and won’t be able to operate.
  • Domain renewals may not be allowed during the two-month “grace” period
  • Domains withdrawn will still remain in the .eu registry for a further 10 months and can be reactivated if the domain is transferred to an individual or entity from within in the EU. 
  • After the 10 months – and a full year after the UK leaves the EU – any remaining domain names will be revoked and therefore available again for registration.

At the moment the assumption is that these rules will kick in on the 30thMarch 2019 – the day after the UK leaves the EU - but if a deal is made, they will likely start at the end of a transition period, for example on the 1stJanuary 2021.

What action should I take?

If you have a .eu website you need to be acting now or be ready to take action soon once there is clarity over the arrangements surrounding Brexit. 

There are really two options. You either transfer ownership of the domain to an individual or entity in a country that operates as part of the European Economic Area or you need to find an alternative domain for your website.  Many larger companies with subsidiaries registered in Europe may, for example, choose to transfer ownership of the domain to the subsidiary.

If you are reliant on an .eu domain for your website then you need to find an alternative, perhaps .co.uk, .com or .net domain. We would suggest doing this as early as possible so you can start to re-establish SEO, perhaps redirecting from your .eu address to the new domain until you’re no longer allowed to use it. If you already have another domain, we’d probably consider flipping on those redirects now or very soon.

What should Leave.EU do?

Leave.EU, the pro-Brexit campaigning group, faces a difficult decision. Their site, and indeed brand, is based around the .eu domain name. We think it’s unlikely in the extreme that they will decide to relocate to Europe (we can imagine the press coverage…), although perhaps there may be a sympathetic individual or group who would take on ownership. 

They would definitely consider starting to find a new domain name urgently and start considering the transition to it and the impact this will have on brand, SEO and other factors. We’d suggest any organisation consider domain management as part of their overall planning for the impact of Brexit.

After the UK leaves the EU we think there will emerge various options for UK companies for proxy registrations for .eu domains, some of which may be more legitimate than others. We can’t comment on the validity of these, but organisations may wish to consider how they protect an .eu domain from being completely revoked for brand protection. Again, if we were Leave.EU we’d be planning ahead for every scenario.

Consider your options

Whatever you do, consider how your digital presence is going to be impacted by Brexit. It’s coming up very soon. The continuing uncertainty doesn’t help in the planning process so plan for every scenario.