What will happen to UK registered EU domains after Brexit?
Brexit’s ripple effect extends far beyond the physical. While politicians butt heads over borders, trade deals and free travel there is another part of everyday life that could be affected by our divorce from the EU. Domains are set to be disrupted too with over 300,000 .eu domain names, belonging to companies exclusively in the UK, revoked or lost. Come the 29th of March, domain names with .eu in their address will be up for grabs and companies that have spent years curating websites, users, transactions and content will be lost. This has been felt in the registration of new .eu Domains with the UK seeing a significant drop in new registrations while countries like Portugal experience a boom.
Image source: Hallam Internet
This fear of the unknown comes from the hardline stance of the EU over the Brexit withdrawal:
“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.”
The European Commission’s stance on UK registered EU domains
In its Notice, the European Commission also advised that UK undertakings and residents would fall into the category of non-eligible parties after Brexit. The Commission warned stakeholders of the following effects:
- UK undertakings and UK residents will no longer be able to register new .eu domain names post-Brexit;
- The Registry will be entitled to revoke .eu domain names registered in the name of UK undertakings and residents. The Registry may revoke a domain name of its own initiative and without any extrajudicial conflict settlement;
- It will no longer be possible to invoke UK rights, such as UK trademarks, against bad faith registrations of .eu domain names;
- Agreements between Registrars and registrants must be changed if they are currently governed by UK law or designate a UK court or dispute resolution body.”
These strict guidelines have been met with criticism as some people have questioned if revoking domains infringes on the human right to property. While the arguments rage and the real terms of the divorce agreement are hammered out we look at what you can do to ensure you update your domain without losing all your clout.
Checklist: What to do with your .eu domain
- If your company only has a UK address, then you can use it as your EU domain’s admin contact. To continue using the domain name you will need to update the admin details on your .eu domain name record.
- Alternatively, you can transfer ownership of the domain name to an EU subsidiary.
- If your business is not going to be able to retain ownership of the domain name, then you may want to figure out who may purchase your domain name for a competitive advantage. Consider steps that can be taken to protect intellectual property.
- Failing all these it may be time to migrate your website to a different domain, like .com, or for UK companies, .co.uk
- Finally, these changes don’t just affect .eu sites but also regional domains such as France (.fr) and Italy (.it). These domains can only be registered by entities within the EU or EEA. Again, these will need to be owned by an entity within the EU.
The Brexit Effect on SEO
From an SEO perspective, there are several checks you will need to cross off to ensure your users and content still feed your score:
- Add all the content from the .eu domain to an alternative domain
- Redirect the .eu domain to the new sub-domain/sub-directory
- Setup geo-filtering to ensure the right content is served to the right country
- Alternatively, if there are multiple languages on the .eu domain, utilise ‘hreflang’ tags and add options on the main domain to switch content
Altering your site to keep up with these changes is a must and the shift in Brexit may open up the playing field. Sites that have long held top spots for certain keywords may be knocked off their perch allowing the savvy domain owner a chance to stake their claim for popular terms and high traffic.
Brexit Land Grab
While most assume companies will act in good faith there is every chance companies or private persons will buy specific domains when they expire. These domains will invariably become much more valuable as owners add a mark-up to the ownership rights of .eu, .it and others. Big chains may find this an issue with several sub-domains in their remit. For example, if marksandspencer.it was used by the brand and became available it would not be long before someone purchased the domain for next to nothing and then demand a huge fee for the rights to the domain.
However, much like the banking sector, it won’t be long before larger companies open up satellite offices to maintain their .eu pages. Smaller companies will not be so lucky as they feel the crunch of this shift. Limited capital and not enough staff to warrant an EU office may mean a creative approach is needed to protect their domain authority.
There are several resources to keep you up to date with all things .eu related. From the informative Brexit Notice to quarterly .eu records, you’ll find a wealth of information. For everything else check out the EURID homepage.
If you need any more assistance or would like to develop a complete digital solution contact Fifteen Design today. With a wealth of experience and expertise, we are perfectly situated to help you and your business reach its full potential.