By Samuel Stolton
(EurActiv) — Over 80,000 internet domain names assigned to UK registrants have been suspended by the EU registry, EURid, following the end of the Brexit transition period at the close of 2020.
The registry has informed EURACTIV that “a few minutes” into the new year, thousands of .eu domains belonging to UK users had been downgraded to a so-called “suspended” status.
This means such domains “do not have any functional features” such as email or basic website services. In addition, no UK-based registrant is now able to obtain a .eu domain.
Ahead of the new year changes, one case has raised particular attention among observers – that of the Leave.EU domain, with speculation mounting as to whether the website would remain online.
Leave.EU is the campaign website for the pro-Brexit lobby bankrolled by UKIP funder Arron Banks and supported by former MEP Nigel Farage. Leading up to the close of 2020, it had remained uncertain whether Leave.EU would seek to drop their EU domain name, and opt instead for a UK or international one. Such a move would not only have impacted the brand image of the ‘Leave.EU’ moniker but would have also hit the website standing in search rankings.
However, EURACTIV can exclusively reveal that ahead of the end of the Brexit transition date, the organisation migrated its registrant address to a site in Waterford, in the Republic of Ireland, in a move that is likely to provoke accusations of hypocrisy from commentators.
More generally, EURid has disclosed that all UK registrants with .eu domains have been notified of the necessary suspension of key functionalities of their online services.
The registry has also recorded an influx of notifications from UK-based registrants using .eu domains, filing a change of legal establishment to a non-UK, EU site, in order to reinstate the ‘registered’ status, allowing for the continuing functionality of online services.
The status of suspension remains valid until 31 March 2021. During this period, updates can be made to registrant addresses for those who wish to migrate from a UK establishment to an EU one. Or, the individual registrant will be able to provide evidence of their citizenship of a EU nations, irrespective of their residence, if they would like to maintain the place of establishment of their service as the UK.
The recent development has been long in the offing. EURACTIV reported in early 2019 that the European Commission had plans to revoke all UK-based .eu domains quickly after the end of the Brexit transition period, with the objective of taking all such websites offline within 48 hours after this date.