The latest casualty in the UK’s impending departure from the European Union? Domain names ending with .eu.
As spotted by The Register, the European Commission announced on Thursday that after Brexit, any and all UK citizens and companies will be barred from owning .eu domain names. In a letter to stakeholders, the Commission, which is the legislative body of the EU, said: “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 [or renew] .eu domain names.”
Exactly when these domain names will be taken away isn’t clear, but the Commission suggests it could happen on the date of Brexit itself, currently scheduled for March 30th, 2019. This won’t have a catastrophic impact (the .eu TLD never really took off in the UK) but will still affect the 317,000 or .eu domains estimated to be registered in the UK.
As The Register points out, what’s unusual here is the peremptory nature of the Commission’s ruling. There doesn’t seem to be any legal recourse for those affected, and no time window post-Brexit for domain owners to transfer sites. This is not the norm, as historically structural changes of this sort have been managed slowly. For example, the Soviet Union’s top-level domain .su was introduced in 1990 (just 15 months before the Union itself collapsed) and was soon replaced by the TLD .ru. But, Russia petitioned for .su to be kept running, and to date more than 100,000 sites using it are still live.
That was only the break-up of the Soviet Union, though, one of the most historically significant events of the 20th century. This is Brexit. This is personal.