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Brexit probably no big deal for UK domain owners

Kevin Murphy, June 29, 2016, 13:32:31 (UTC), Domain Policy

The UK may have suffered the most serious self-inflicted wound since the deep-fried Mars bar when it voted to leave the European Union last week, but it seems unlikely to have a huge effect on domain name registrants.
Most EU ccTLD registries do not require registrants to be based in the EU, and those that do have shown themselves flexible.
I surveyed the web sites of all 29 EU ccTLD registries, scouring FAQs and policy documents, to see if leaving the EU would cause conflicts for UK registrants.
All but one of these sites have comprehensive English versions available, which made the process very simple indeed.
It turns out the majority of the EU’s member states either have no geographic restrictions whatsoever or restrict registrations to only people and companies within their own nations.
I found five — six if you count .eu itself — that have policies that refer directly to a European Union presence in their rules and regulations.

  • .fr (France) is restricted to residents of the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
  • .it (Italy) allows registrations from anyone in the European Economic Area, the Vatican, San Marino or Switzerland.
  • .nl (Netherlands) allows regs from anywhere, but registry manager SIDN says may attach “additional conditions to legal and/or natural persons based outside the European Union”.
  • .hu (Hungary) requires EU residency for individuals and companies wishing to register directly at the second level. There are no such restrictions at the third level.
  • .bg (Bulgaria) requires a local Bulgarian presence for non-EU registrants.
  • .eu (European Union) requires presence in the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

As you can see, even those with EU presence requirements are pretty flexible when it comes to bolting on additional eligible countries.
So-called Brexit — British exit from the EU — is unlikely to happen for two years or more, if it happens at all.
The thinking right now is that if/when the UK does finally formally leave it is likely to either become a member of the European Economic Area or have otherwise have negotiated a relationship with the EU not unlike Norway’s.
This would presumably make it fairly easy for ccTLD registries to plug the UK into their existing policies.
Any registry with a substantial number of existing UK registrants would of course have financial exposure to a Brexit, a likely incentive to modify their rules accordingly.
So for regular domain owners, Brexit is probably no big deal.
Whether the move would an impact on trademark holders or registrars are rather more complex matters that I have not looked at yet.

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Comments (3)

  1. It is a potential problem for .EU in that it stands to lose approximately 280K registrations. The European Commission hasn’t issued any instructions to Eurid yet. Many apparently UK registered .EU domains are held by UK front companies ultimately owned by non-EU firms. In the event of the UK being excluded from the .EU ccTLD (unlikely), these will just be shifted to front companies in other EU countries. The main problem for .EU at the moment is trying to grow beyond a brand protection/truckstop TLD into one that is actively used and has a high profile in EU countries. Significantly, the Polish .EU count has been declining and the Eastern EU countries were accounting for some of .EU’s strongest growth in the last few years. While the BREXIT may be no big deal for UK registrants, it may cause an increase in .UK registration from businesses outside the UK (if they haven’t already registered their business name in .UK).
    Most EU ccTLDs have some level of UK domain ownership. The ccTLDs, and the gTLDs, do not exist in isolation at the country level. They are all quite interconnected.

  2. Thomas Rickert says:

    For those interested in the topic, eco Association of the Internet Industry is offering a forum for discussion on July 27th via telephone conference, see

  3. Lars Steffen says:

    For those still interested in the BREXIT, eco Association of the Internet Industry published a BREXIT paper based on the telephone conference in July. See

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