The Acadian (mid-Devonian) deformation in NW Europe has typically been interpreted as the culminating event of the Silurian closure of the Iapetus Ocean. This view has been challenged by the recognition of an intervening early Devonian transtensional event across part of the assembled Laurussian continent. Instead, the Acadian shortening must be driven by a renewed ‘push from the south’, involving subduction of the Rheic Ocean, and either flat-slab subduction or impingement of another Gondwana-derived continental fragment. A problem with either hypothesis is the lack of Acadian deformation or even correlative unconformity in the segment of the Rhenohercynian Zone between the Acadian belt and the Rheic suture. The possibility is explored that this Rhenohercynian segment was juxtaposed with the Acadian belt and the Midland Microcraton only during latest Acadian and/or Variscan tectonics. If so, a major lithospheric suture lies buried just south of the Variscan Front, along the Bristol Channel Fault Zone, and the missing Acadian terranes must now lie elsewhere along the orogen. A case is made that they are related to the allochthonous terranes of NW Iberia. In any case, the Acadian event in Europe should properly be regarded as proto-Variscan rather than late Caledonian.