Brexit is coming, and the European Commission has released a notice to stakeholders about what effect it will have on .eu domain names. These rules also apply to private parties, so do you have anything to worry about with your websites using the .eu top level domain (TLD)?
Following the victory of Boris Johnson in the 2019 elections, we can now safely predict a Brexit on or before January 31, 2020. An EU notice to stakeholders, as well as a Brexit Notice from the EURid registry manager help guide us on what we need to do to make the transition successful.
In preparation for Brexit, the European Union has released a Notice to Stakeholders through the Directorate-General For Communications Networks, Content And Technology (DG Connect). The effect of Brexit on UK owners of websites hosted on the .eu top level domain is significant, as according to DG Connect:
the EU regulatory framework for the .eu Top Level Domain will no longer apply to the United Kingdom – DG Connect
Registration and Renewal
According to Article 4(2)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 733/2002, the following people are eligible to register websites with the .eu top level domain:
- Undertakings having their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the EU;
- Organisations established within the EU (without prejudice to the application of national law)
- Natural persons resident within the EU
Most significantly, this means that UK-based businesses and individuals will not be able to register new websites with the .eu domain, and there is no grandfather agreement in place. According to the notice:
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
The notice further underscores that accredited .eu domain registrars will not be able to process registrations and renewals for those who do not meet the requirements, as after withdrawal the United Kingdom will be considered a “third country”.
Revocation of Registered .eu Top Level Domains
The EU’s notice to stakeholders also provides a clear statement on revocation of .eu domains. As of the end of January 2020, the registry for .eu domains will be entitled to revoke domain names on their own initiative, without having to submit the dispute to arbitration.
UK-based website owners should beging making preparations for migrating their sites from the .eu top level domain. While the assumption is that there will be a grandfather agreement agreed for this, the sheer mass of legislation (and politics involved) with Brexit does not make this a guarantee, and the published notice should serve as a warning that nothing is guaranteed.
Owners of co.uk Top Level Domains in the EU
For those based in the EU who own co.uk or .uk top level domains, the picture is much rosier. There are no restrictions for registering a website on the “old” .co.uk, and for the .uk TLD there needs to be a UK address for WHOIS, but the owner does not have to be UK based.
Next Steps for UK owners of .eu Domains after the 2019 Elections
The simplest solution is to create a company in an EU nation as the owner of the domain, and transfer to them, meeting the requirements of Article 4(2)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 733/2002. One could also transfer to an EU member of the business.
The safest solution, of course, would be to migrate your pages from .eu to a different domain that does not have geographic residency or registration requirements. Following the victory of Boris Johnson and the conservative party, we can now expect Brexit to happen by January 31, 2020. Considering the implications of Brexit, there is no guarantee that the European Union will allow non-EU entities to own .eu domains, and it’s highly recommended that affected owners find alternative domains or solutions.
EURid Registry Manager Notice
EURid is the registry manager of the .eu top-level domains, as appointed by the European Commission in 2003. Prior to Boris Johnson’s victory and the conservative majority, EURid provided a Brexit Notice to help clarify the situation. The regulations regarding setting up a .eu domain are simple:
Any company, individual or organisation residing in the European Union or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or an EU citizen, independently of their place of residence can register a .eu, .ею or .ευ (as of 14 November 2019) domain name. – EURid
In preparation for Brexit, EURid has made a major adjustment to this rule. From November 1, 2019, EURid will not allow residents of Great Britain (.GB TLD) and Gibraltar (.GI TLD) new domains unless they hold citizenship in the EU27. On the same date, EURid notified GB and GI registrants and their registrars that their domain names were no longer compliant with the existing .eu regulatory framework.
EURid Compliance by January 1, 2020
Registrants have until January 1, 2020 to demonstrate compliance with the framework and can do so by updating their contact data. To be compliant, a registrant must update either their residence or citizenship is, or indicate a legal business entity in, the EU27.
EURid Compliance Deadlines and Consequences
EURid has set a deadline for compliance, with a two-tiered strategy. Firstly:
As of 1 January 2020, 00:00:00 CET, all registrants who did not demonstrate their eligibility will be deemed ineligible and their domain names will be WITHDRAWN. A WITHDRAWN domain name no longer functions, as the domain name is removed from the zone file and can no longer support any active services (such as websites or email).
The final and most significant effect comes later:
Twelve months after the UK withdrawal, i.e. on 1 November 2020 00:00:00 CET, all the affected domain names will be REVOKED, and will become AVAILABLE for general registration. Their release will occur in batches from the time they become available.
As the expected date of withdrawal has been moved to January 31, 2020, we would expect revocation to be moved as well, to January 31, 2021. The overall January 1 deadline for compliance is on hold following the election, and we would expect all these deadlines to shift forward by 2 months following the Prime Minister’s comments.