You’d have to be living in a cave if you haven’t seen Brexit invading headlines for quite some time now. Apparently, it will be impacting the web in surprising new ways too!
In an official statement, the European Commission announced it will be cancelling all circa 300,000 domains under the .eu top-level domain that have a UK registrant, following Britain’s eventual withdrawal from the EU.
“As of the withdrawal date, undertakings and organizations 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,” the document states or if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date.”
This obviously will have some very serious implications for companies in the UK who have been building their brand on .eu domains.
It also surprisingly goes against internet norms, which usually permits grandfathering of domains. For example, the .SU domain (Soviet Union) still exists, even though the region itself ceased to exist all the way back in 1991.
The EU does have the right to do whatever it wants with the .EU domain, and the original, 2006 rules clearly outline that it’s only available to those with EU residence, which soon enough will not apply to those in the United Kingdom – According to the registration rules for .EU domains, these domains are reserved for European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, and once the United Kingdom is out of European Union, all the persons and businesses can lose access to these domains.
Under the current policies, an individual or organisation needs to have an address in the EU and a couple of neighbouring countries to qualify for registration:
(i) an undertaking having its registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, or
(ii) an organisation established within the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein without prejudice to the application of national law, or
(iii) a natural person resident within the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
The document from the European Union states that the United Kingdom submitted on 29 March 2017 the notification of its intention to withdraw from the Union pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This means that, unless a ratified withdrawal agreement establishes another date, all Union primary and secondary law will cease to apply to the United Kingdom from 30 March 2019, 00:00h (CET).
According to a quarterly report from EURid, the organization that manages .eu domains, there were 317,286 .eu domains registered by UK citizens at the end of last year (Q4 2017).
Brexit is currently scheduled for March 30th, 2019, so if you are currently utilising a .eu domain and are keen to avoid any losses you may want to consider setting up a new domain name now and putting all necessary SEO and marketing foundations in place.
From an SEO perspective, having 301 redirects from one URL to another URL indefinitely is best, but if that is impossible, the longer you have 301 redirects in place, the better off you are with Google, and other search engines.