Leave.EU has left the UK, as Brexit forced the Eurosceptic campaign group to choose between its name and its country.
According to domain name registration records, the organisation, founded by businessman and activist Arron Banks, picked the former. The website is now registered in the name of Sean Power, the chief executive of the Ireland-based professional services company BSG.
When asked, however, Power, who is based in Waterford, insisted that he had no involvement with the organisation. When informed that his name and contact details were present on the registration, he said he would be “looking into the matter”.
Leave.EU has had some time to consider its move. The organisation is named after its web address, but .EU domain names can only be held by businesses or individuals based in the EU or wider European Economic Area.
As the Brexit transition period drew to an end in 2019, the British owners of .EU domain names – of which there were estimated to be about 340,000 – started to express alarm that no deal had been made, meaning that they would have to give up their websites when Britain left the EU.
Initially, Leave.EU suggested it was fine with that outcome. “If we leave with no deal our job is done,” Leave.EU’s communications chief, Andy Wigmore, told the Guardian in 2019. “No need for Leave.EU any more. Cheers all round, I’m sure!”
But in July that year, the EU threw a lifeline to organisations, confirming that UK-based owners of .EU domains could continue to operate – provided the actual registration was transferred to an EU citizen.
For companies which did not take that step, it is not too late to follow Leave.EU’s lead. According to UK government advice: “On 1 January 2021, any UK registrant who cannot meet the eligibility criteria will have their .eu domain names withdrawn. A withdrawn domain name no longer functions … and can no longer support any active services (such as websites or email).
“Withdrawn domain names will not be available to any other entity for a further 12 months. On 1 January 2022, all the withdrawn domain names will be revoked and made available for registration by other entities.”
But a grace period, lasting until 31 March this year, allows registrants to transfer suspended domain names to an EU-based owner, or any person with EU citizenship.