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This article investigates the deepening of the UK's security and defence arrangements with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In recent years there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity indicating far closer engagement between London and Abu Dhabi. Rather than being an innovative initiative of the Cameron government, the interaction has deeper roots, with this article uncovering the importance of the relatively unknown Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) of 1996, signed by the Major government. Furthermore, the UK-UAE defence relationship is shown to have endured beyond the infamous UK withdrawal from ‘east of Suez’ in 1971. The current engagement is, however, more intense and potentially far-reaching than it had been in recent decades, with the defence sector being placed at the forefront of UK efforts to bolster the relationship with the oil-rich Gulf emirate. Using official statements from London and Abu Dhabi, this article suggests that the UK-UAE relationship has always remained intact, although it lost focus following the end of the Major government until the refocusing on the Gulf by the Cameron government. The article concludes with an assessment of the expectations of the UAE, and the strategic drivers underpinning UK policy.