Brexit and .eu domain names – what do you need to know?

By Larissa Holtzhausen on 12 January 2021

As you are no doubt aware, as of 1 February 2020 (and after a significant amount of dawdling) the United Kingdom officially left the European Union.  Among other things, Brexit has had a significant effect on individuals and businesses that hold pan-European intellectual property rights, including EUTM trade mark registrations, community design rights and .eu domains.

Although 1 February 2020 was the official date of the long-anticipated "Brexit", the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transitional period until 31 December 2020.  This article will briefly discuss the key consequences of Brexit for the holders of .eu domain names during the transitional period, and thereafter.  

Firstly, who can register a .eu domain name? 

According to Regulation (EC) No 733/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the implementation of the .eu Top Level Domain ("TLD"), only certain types of persons, undertakings and organisations are eligible to register .eu domain names:  

  1. EU citizens, independently of their place of residence; 
  2. natural persons who are not EU citizens, but who are residents of an EU Member State;
  3. undertakings established in the EU; and
  4. organisations that are established in the EU, without prejudice to the application of national law.
As UK citizens and businesses established in the UK previously fell within the above categories, they were entitled to register and hold .eu domains.  

The transitional period and beyond 

During the transitional period (1 February 2020 until 31 December 2020), undertakings and organisations established in the UK, UK residents and UK citizens continued to be able to hold and register a .eu domain name.  

As at the end of the transitional period, UK undertakings or organisations established in the UK but not in the EU, UK citizens who are not resident of an EU Member State, and UK residents who are not EU citizens (UK registrants) will no longer be eligible to hold a .eu domain name.

From 31 December 2020 onward, the European Registry of Internet Domain Names ("EURid"), the body responsible for the administration of the .eu domain name space, began enforcing certain measures to move this process forward.  A comprehensive list of the scheme can be accessed at the EURid webpage (available here

As of 1 January 2021, 00:00:00 CET, EURid no longer allows the registration of any new domain name by UK registrants.  In addition, EURid allows neither the transfer, nor the transfer through update, of any .eu domain name to a UK registrant.

As of 1 October 2020, EURid notified all UK registrants and registrars that they would lose their eligibility to register a .eu domain name as of 1 January 2021 unless they demonstrated their compliance with the .eu regulatory framework.  This could be done by updating their registration data before 31 December 2020, indicating a legally established entity in one of the eligible EU Member States, updating their residence to an EU Member State, or proving their citizenship of an EU Member State. 

On 21 December 2020, EURid notified all UK registrants who did not demonstrate continued compliance with the eligibility criteria about the risk of non-compliance with the .eu regulatory framework.  And on 1 January 2021, EURid notified all UK registrants and registrars that their domain name was no longer compliant with the .eu regulatory framework and therefore, it would be moved to "suspended" status until 31 March 2021.  A domain name in the "suspended" status can no longer support any service (such as website and email) but may still be reinstated if registration data is updated to meet the eligibility criteria.

Failing compliance on 1 April 2021, the EURid will notify all UK registrants and registrars that their domain name is no longer compliant with the .eu regulatory framework and consequently will be moved to "withdrawn" status.  A domain name in "withdrawn" status is not in the zone file and cannot support any service.

On 1 January 2022, all the domain names in "withdrawn" status, formerly assigned to UK registrants, will be revoked and will subsequently become available for general registration.  Their release will occur in batches for security reasons.

Anything else?

EU citizens who are resident in the UK will remain eligible to hold a .eu domain name after the end of the transitional period, provided they update their registration data with their EU citizenship.  Likewise, UK citizens residing in an EU Member State will continue to be eligible to hold a .eu domain name after the transitional period based on their residence.  

Since October 2019, EU citizens may register a domain name under .eu independently of their country of residence.  To update a registration based on eligibility as a citizen of an EU member state, a domain holder must contact their registrar (the company through which they registered the domain name).  The registrar can update the registration data and include the country of citizenship in the provided "citizenship" field.  At any time after an update, the domain holder can verify the registration data of the domain name by logging into their account.

Brexit’s impact on European TLDs not limited to the .eu domain 

Importantly, it is not only the .eu TLD that will be affected by Brexit.  Unless they take steps to comply with the relevant registration requirements, UK-based .eu domain name holders run the risk of having their registrations cancelled, not only in .eu domain name space but also in other European TLDs. 

The rights of UK residents to hold domain names in all of the following countries is also affected post-Brexit: .FR (France) .HU (Hungary) .IT (Italy) .RE (Reunion Island) .YT (Mayotte) .PM (Saint Pierre and Miquelon) .WF (Wallis and Futuna Islands) and .TF (French Southern and Antarctic Territories). 

This is because all of the above TLDs require a registrant located in the EU (or in the territory of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland).  In light of this, UK-based residents who hold domain names in any of the above TLDs should take the measures necessary to ensure compliance with EU presence requirements after Brexit.

In order to ensure that you comply with the relevant requirements and to avoid having your domain registrations cancelled, it is best advised to reach out to an intellectual property or domain specialist. 

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Please note that our blog posts are informal commentaries on developments in the law as at the time of publication and not legal advice. You should place no reliance on our blog posts; we look forward to discussing your particular matter with you.