Domain registrars have this week warned UK-based EU domain owners that if a no-deal Brexit occurs, their sites will go offline.
This means that any UK based site with a .eu URL will not be allowed to have its domain registration renewed if a deal is not reached.
As a result, once it expires it will go offline unless the site owner moves it to a different domain. This includes the Leave.eu domain, the website for one of the main pro-Brexit campaigns.
The warning has come as the government issues a slew of technical notices on how various aspects of governance would be handled if the UK fails to reach a deal on Brexit.
Why would sites with an EU domain be revoked?
The issue, which first came to light in March, is because the EU domain is legally reserved for individuals or entities based in the EU and cannot be held by anyone outside of the union.
A notice issued by the European Commission on 28th March 2018 confirmed that EU domain names would be withdrawn.
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“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,” the notice wrote.
The EU domain withdrawal will begin once the deadline for a deal, 29th March 2019, has passed. At this point UK residents will no longer be able to register new EU domain names and existing names will not be allowed to be renewed.
“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,” explained the notice.
“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.”
A challenge for website owners
The issue has caused significant headaches for website owners, who have been faced with three options: gambling on a Brexit deal passing, creating a local back-up in case a no-deal occurs or moving their site to an alternative domain, such as a .com.
The latter option is the safest, although may prove to be unnecessary, while the middle option involves minimal effort now but does risk a loss of traffic and search engine rankings if owners are forced to move the site after it has gone offline.