Brexit FAQs

The Brexit Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) provides information for registrants on Brexit related matters. We will update the FAQs regularly as the Brexit negotiations progress.

The FAQs were last updated on 2 December 2020.

Brexit FAQs

What will happen after the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020?

After the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020, we will enter into an implementation or transition period which will last until 31 December 2020. During this time, there will be no change to the way we register optometrists and dispensing opticians from the European Economic Area (EEA).

What will happen after 31 December 2020? Will the GOC’s registration requirements for EU or European Economic Area (EEA) nationals change after Brexit?

The UK Government has until 31 December 2020 to negotiate a future relationship with the EU. The Department of Health and Social Care has recently updated us on new arrangements from 1 January 2021.

  • Any EEA applicant who has submitted their application with relevant supporting documents by 11pm on 31 December 2020 will be considered under the existing EEA system.
  • From 1 January 2021, EEA optometrists and dispensing opticians applicants will need to apply for registration via our non-UK international registration process (currently called our non-EEA process).

    Subject to further legislation to implement the Swiss Citizen’s Rights Agreement, Swiss nationals applying for registration may still apply under the EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications through the general system of recognition until 31 December 2024. This will be under our existing EEA applications process, in line with the EU directive on the recognition of professional qualifications. Details of the two processes are on our website here. We will be updating these pages in early January 2021.

Will the GOC’s expectations of registrants change after Brexit?

No. Our Standards of Practice set out our expectations of registrants and they will remain unchanged after Brexit.

However, there may be changes in the law, or changes in expectations from other organisations, and registrants will need to be aware of these. You may wish to take advice from your professional body.

Will the GOC continue to be part of the IMI system, notifying other EU countries (and receiving notifications) about those optometrists or dispensing opticians who are not fit for practice?

This will depend on the nature of Brexit. In the event of a withdrawal agreement we would hope to remain part of this system; in the event of a ‘no deal’ we would expect that the UK will no longer be a part of it. We would continue to seek letters of good standing from competent authorities about applicants from other countries and official documents from either the competent authority, regulatory body or relevant government department confirming eligibility to practise in the member state, as we currently do for non-EU applicants. We would also continue to co-operate with competent authorities in the EU and elsewhere in respect of requests about UK practitioners who wish to practise abroad.

Will continuing professional development (CPD) / continuing education and training (CET) activities I undertake elsewhere in the EU still count after Brexit?

Brexit will have no impact on this and the same process will continue to apply for any CPD/CET activity that is undertaken outside of the UK. You will need to apply for approval in advance of the activity through your MyCET account.

Will the GOC continue to recognise GOC-approved educational courses delivered in other countries?

We do not expect any changes to current GOC approval statuses as a result of Brexit.

What happens to CE-marked products, such as spectacles and contact lenses, after Brexit? Can I still sell them?

Products such as spectacles and contact lenses are medical devices, which are regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) not by the GOC. Their current advice for a no-deal scenario is that the UK will recognise medical devices approved for the EU market and CE-marked.

We recommend that registrants look out for up-to-date advice from the MHRA and/or the Government – the following links may be useful:

What should I do if I am unable to get hold of a licensed medicine or medical device that a patient needs after Brexit? Can I use an unlicensed alternative?

This is a matter for the Department of Health and Social Care. They have been developing emergency contingency plans and have guidance on their website.

NHS England has also published guidance.

We will be monitoring the situation carefully, working closely with the NHS and professional bodies and will issue guidance if this proves necessary.

What effect will Brexit have on the workforce? Will there be enough optometrists and dispensing opticians after Brexit?

We do not have a workforce planning remit but we do not expect there to be a significant impact in the immediate term. Only a relatively small number of optometrists and dispensing opticians from the EEA come to work in the UK compared to some other healthcare professions. The total number of fully qualified international registrants ever added to the register as of January 2019 is 516. Of those, 331 remain registered and 185 are now unregistered.

Can I still provide GOS services to visitors from the EU after Brexit?

Optical businesses can currently provide GOS services to any overseas visitor who meets the eligibility criteria, including visitors from EU member states, and they will not be charged for this. Any changes to this after Brexit may depend on whether or not a withdrawal agreement is reached – you should check with your local GOS commissioner.

Will EU laws remain in place in respect of employment and data protection?

After the 2016 referendum the UK Parliament legislated to bring all EU legal requirements into the body of UK law. This means that current laws in these areas, including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that affect UK optical practices will not change automatically as a result of Brexit, whether we leave under the Withdrawal Agreement or on a no-deal basis. They could change in the future if UK law diverges from EU law.

The UK Government has advised that in the event that the UK leaves the EU on 31 October 2019 without a deal, UK businesses will need to ensure they continue to comply with data protection law. For UK businesses that operate internationally or exchange personal data with partners in other countries there may be changes that need to be made ahead of the UK leaving the EU to ensure minimal risk of disruption. Examples of data transfers include fulfilling orders for customers who are based in the EU, storing files on cloud services based in the EU, and using third party suppliers based in the EU to process administration functions such as payroll.

Aside from seeking the relevant legal advice, the below resources might be helpful when considering how your data flows could be impacted:

The Government guidance highlights what companies need to do in the event of a no-deal.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has a section on Data Protection and Brexit.

The ICO has also produced an interactive tool to help companies decide whether standard contractual clauses (SCCs) are a suitable safeguard for their international data transfers.

Me/my staff/my family are EU nationals – will we be able to stay in the UK after Brexit?

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the Government's EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK. To find out more and to apply, visit the Government's website.