In a referendum on June 23, 2016, 52% of the British electorate voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. It was only afterwards that many realized that the vote does not only mark a historical political rupture, but also comes with far-reaching economic and juridical consequences. The impending change in the political status of Great Britain dissolves existing economic structures and the domain industry is not exempt from the impact of Brexit. The industry is discussing the implications of the exit regarding trade with the European Union on one hand, and the ccTLD .EU of the EURid registry on the other hand. If Great Britain not only leaves the European Union, but also the European Economic Area (EEA) following a “hard Brexit”, many British registrars would no longer meet the registration requirements for domains under the .EU ccTLD. This results in a difficult juridical situation, in particular because longstanding contracts would then breach the EURid policies.
This is why the Association of the Internet Industry launched the Names & Numbers Forum and published a discussion paper last month, that aims to break down the complex .EU matter into five possible solutions:
- Option 1: “Pause for registration”: Temporarily blocking registrations by British citizens prevents new – legally problematic – domains from being registered. The “Pause for registration” will end as soon as the EU commission has set up new regulations.
- Option 2: “Grandfathering”: The grandfathering option takes a differentiated approach to .EU domains based on pre- and post-Brexit rules. The EU commission will be in charge of detailing the interim solution.
- Option 3: “Revocation”: If revocation comes into effect, all domains registered by citizens with a residence in the UK will be irreversibly deleted. As a logic consequence, new registrations will be prevented.
- Option 4: “Proxy registration services”: By using a trustee with a residence within the European Union or the European Economic Area (EEA), the registration requirements for the .EU ccTLD would be met.
- Option 5: “UK remains in the EEA”: If the United Kingdom does not execute a “hard Brexit” and remains in the European Economic Area, the exit from the European Union would have no effect regarding the .EU ccTLD.
As of now, eco does not see any acute danger regarding the deletion of .EU domains registered by UK citizens. But the Association of the Internet Industry has little influence on the decision making process in the end. The discussion paper is mainly intended to provide comprehensive information for affected and interested parties. The final decision regarding the handling of current and future .EU registrations remains solely in the hands of the EU commission. However eco does advise British EU registrants to study the five options ahead of time.