With or without EU

Stuart Fuller

In the next 48 hours, the population of the United Kingdom will find out whether the consensus is to stay in or leave the European Union. Modern day politics has left most of the UK’s citizens apathetic in terms of their political views; the fact that we essentially have three main political parties that have all tried to travel down the middle of the road for the past 20 years says a lot about the notion that’s it’s about people not policies, individuals not issues, and media exposure rather than manifesto promises.

The Brexit vote has truly divided the nation. Whilst millions are still probably undecided at this late stage, many firmly know what camp they’re in – more so than when it has come to nailing allegiance to the political party flag in general elections. The views of high profile figures such as David Beckham and Richard Branson send social media into meltdown, and cause the pollsters major headaches in recalculating their projections.

But what will the impact be on our lives if we do vote to leave the European Union?  

Not only does that throw the political future of the prime minister into question, but it also opens up a whole number of debates about what happens next – ranging from the process by which we can legally exit our agreements to how our usage of the Internet and digital services may change.  

Like it or not, many of our data privacy laws are entrenched in EU law, which means we’d have to go through the process of drafting new legislation that would govern our online life. It would be a long, drawn-out process. Likewise, recent rulings on the standardization of mobile roaming charges could potentially be set aside for the UK if we exit the EU.

Certainly one aspect I would imagine few organizations have considered is what happens to their dotEU domain name registrations once we exit stage right in Brussels.

The dotEU domain name was launched way back in December 2005, and today has nearly 4 million domain names registered, making it the 11th most registered Top Level Domain in the world. The issue is that dotEU registrations can only be made by any natural person, company or organization residing in or established in the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway. So if we leave the EU, every domain name registrant based in the UK will essentially not be entitled to hold their names anymore. That means hundreds domain names could be at risk.

Most major brand holders will have protected their trademarks and key terms under the dotEU domain name, so it’s unclear exactly what will happen should the ‘No’ vote happen. It is possible today to register a dotEU if you’re not within the EU, but a local-presence service is required, with many companies offering this at around £50 annually. For many firms that simply registered the name a decade ago and have done little to add value to it, that may be a cost too far and consequently we could see thousands of domain names simply being deleted or not renewed. In turn, that could lead to a number of cyber-squatters (using fake but legitimate registration details; real addresses based in the EU but not belonging to them) rubbing their hands at potentially picking up dotEU domain names and infringing on the intellectual property of brand holders.

Just over a year ago, we had a similar situation with the Scottish Independence Referendum, where a ‘Yes’ vote would have essentially invalidated the right of every Scottish business and consumer without a local presence to own a dotUK domain name. The additional level of complexity here was that although the dotScot new gTLD was available, Scotland would not have been able to apply for its own two-character ccTLD as there are no spare relevant ones starting with an ‘S’ available. Fortunately, for the sake of these issues, the ‘No’ voters won the day.

Whilst the future of brand holders’ dotEU domain names may not be top of the agenda in the aftermath of the vote, it’s something that will need to be considered should the decision be made by the British people to leave the EU.