One year on from the historic triggering of Article 50 by the United Kingdom on 29 March 2017, a quietly published ‘Notice to stakeholders’ was released in Brussels by the Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology.

The details of which will have serious consequences for UK businesses that have bought, and are using .eu domain names.

Come 30 March 2019:

… 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… Registry for .eu will be entitled to revoke such domain name.

This suggests that not only will UK businesses not be able to use the .eu domain names that they’ve been using for many years, but that they will also not be able to redirect these previously used domains to a new domain name, as they’re not going to be allowed to renew them at all.

This means therefore, that they will have to surrender their domain names.

Why it matters

Search engines look at hundreds, if not thousands of different signals in their algorithms to determine which websites to rank in which order for their organic search results. One of these metrics includes the investigation of third party links and citations pointing to a website.

These count almost in the form of ‘votes’, so if all other metrics are equal, trusted votes affect the performance of a website in a positive sense.

Changing domains isn’t usually problem – but in this case it is

Businesses change their domain names all the time, and as long as they carry out a full SEO migration, which includes permanently redirecting the old domain to the new domain using a 301 server redirect, then the signals are passed to the new website, which in turn will preserve the performance (rankings & traffic), of the website.

As it stands with this latest news, .eu domains owned by UK companies and individuals will likely be re-purchased inside the EU after 30 March 2019.

In essence, direct competitors of UK businesses in the EU will be able to buy their old .eu domains.

Who’s affected?

In total, UK registrants own 317,000 .eu domains, which make up roughly a tenth of all the .eu domains registered according to The Register.

Alexa states however, that as of this month, there are only 5,310 .eu domains; representing a sliver at 0.531%, however this is only the mostly highly trafficked websites, so many more thousands will almost certainly be in existence.

The UK Government needs to contest this urgently in our Brexit negotiations.

The UK government should contest this notice and ensure that any business that already owns .eu domains in the UK will be allowed to keep using them.

At the very least, UK businesses should have the option to permanently redirect domain names bought in good faith to a new domain name.