Michael Sheen gave OBE back to deliver monarchy lecture

Hollywood actor Michael Sheen handed back his OBE so he could air his views about the monarchy without being a “hypocrite”, he has revealed.

Mr Sheen, 51, from Port Talbot, said the decision came after researching the history of his native Wales for his 2017 Raymond Williams lecture.

He received the OBE in 2009 for services to drama.

The actor said he decided not to announce his decision in 2017, fearing some people would find it insulting.

He revealed it in an interview with newspaper columnist Owen Jones this week when asked about it.

“Raymond Williams famous wrote a piece called Who Speaks For Wales in 1971 – and I took that as my starting point for the lecture as in who speaks for Wales now?”, he said.

“And in my research, to do that lecture, I learnt a lot about Welsh history.

“By the time I finished typing that lecture… I remember sitting there and thinking ‘well I have a choice’ either don’t give this lecture and hold on to my OBE or I give this lecture and give the OBE back.

“I wanted to do the lecture so I gave my OBE back.”

Mr Sheen said he meant “absolutely no disrespect” in returning the OBE, and that he had felt “incredibly honoured” to have received it, noting it had helped his career both inside and outside of acting.

He added: “I just realised I’d be a hypocrite if I said the things I was going to say in the lecture about the nature of the relationship between Wales and the British state.”

Murder investigation after 80-year-old found dead in Essex

A murder investigation has been launched after an elderly man was found dead in an Essex village.

Police said officers were called to a property on Halstead Road, Aldham, shortly after 13:00 GMT on Tuesday where they found a man unresponsive.

The victim, who was in his 80s, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Detectives have appealed for any doorbell, dashcam or CCTV footage of the area, particularly after 15:00 GMT on Monday.

Brexit: UK sausage makers face EU export ban

Raw sausages and other minced meats can no longer be exported to the EU from 1 January, according to new rules.

The guidance is part of the post-Brexit trade deal agreed between the UK and the EU last week.

Meat industry bodies attended a conference call with ministers on Tuesday to seek clarification about the issue.

The British Meat Processors Association said it was one of several issues causing concern.

New EU rules on exports dictate that from 1 January, the following animal products cannot be exported into the EU:

However, these new rules do not affect exports of raw minced meats to Northern Ireland.

The British Meat Processors Association’s (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen said: “This was just one of the issues that was causing us some concern, but I guess towards the end we sort of knew that wasn’t going to come through in the negotiations, the way they were going.

“We hope they will be carrying on talking to the EU and that they will push through and create an export health safety certificate for these products so they can go through.

The BMPA is hoping that more clarity on what businesses need to do will help it to prepare their members ahead of the new year.

Mr Allen added that the call was also to decide the wording on the new export health certificates.

“That wording tells us what we have to comply with and we hope we are not going to hear that there are things we’re not expecting to be on there,” he said.

Wilfred Emmanuel Jones is a British Devon-based farmer and founder of The Black Farmer line of meat products, including raw sausages.

Since he will no longer be allowed to export fresh sausages to the EU, he has decided to send them frozen instead.

“There’s a really big opportunity to do premium frozen sausages for the continent,” he explained. “One problem we have with sausages is that in this country at least, anything frozen is seen as down-market, not a premium product.”

The UK is the only country in Europe that makes and exports raw sausages. Other countries, as well as the US, all produce pre-cooked sausages, as they have a longer shelf life than raw ones, said Mr Jones.

But rather than give up on British traditions and make pre-cooked sausages, he thinks that sausage makers need to bring in freezing equipment.

“I think we should have a British sausage mark, so if you’re going to be selling sausages to any part of the world, it’s unique to any of the sausages around the world,” he added.

A government spokeswoman said: “We have agreed a deal based on friendly cooperation between sovereign equals, centred on free trade and inspired by our shared history and values.

“It takes the UK completely out of the EU’s customs union and single market – which means businesses should continue their preparations for changes next year.”

Harry and Meghan say love wins in first podcast from Spotify deal

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have released their first podcast, in which they reflect on 2020 with a string of celebrities and activists.

Singer Sir Elton John, presenter James Corden, author Matt Haig, tennis player Naomi Osaka and others feature on the first episode of Archewell Audio.

It is the first fruit of Prince Harry and Meghan’s podcast deal with Spotify.

“No matter what life throws at you guys, trust us when we say, love wins,” Meghan tells listeners.

The couple do not directly discuss their personal experiences of 2020, which started with them announcing they would step back as “senior” royals, before moving to the US.

Instead, Meghan explains that they decided to enlist “a few friends and a lot of other folks” who “we admire, and get their thoughts on what they learned from 2020”.

First is Sir Elton, who describes 2020 as “the worst year I’ve ever known”, but who says he hopes when the pandemic passes “that we have become better people – and I hope for healing”.

US actor Tyler Perry talks about laying on food for 5,000 underprivileged families at his studio in Atlanta, Georgia, while chef Jose Andres also discusses distributing meals in the US during the pandemic.

The other guests include 17-year-old activist Christina Adane, alternative health guru Deepak Chopra, US politician Stacey Abrams and British spoken word artist George the Poet.

Prince Harry and Meghan did not interview them, instead asking the guests to record themselves to avoid what the duke describes as “the awkward dance of a video chat”.

Meghan says their responses “all came back to one thing – to the power of connection”.

She adds: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.”

Prince Harry says he wants to pass on a lesson from 2020 “about how important it is to take care of one another and how meaningful our connections are, even when they’re physically impossible”.

The couple’s one-year-old son Archie also appears, ending the half-hour episode by wishing listeners a happy new year with a hint of an American accent.

When the couple announced their intention to step back as senior royals, they said they would work to become “financially independent”.

The Spotify deal followed a separate deal to make a range of documentaries, docu-series, feature films, scripted shows and children’s programming for Netflix.

For the Sussexes, 2020 was also the year that Meghan suffered a miscarriage, and of legal action against the Mail on Sunday and the Splash News and Picture Agency.

Deepfake queen prompts 200-plus complaints to Ofcom

More than 200 people have complained to the UK’s media watchdog Ofcom about Channel 4’s alternative Christmas message, which featured a deepfake of the Queen.

The broadcaster said its intention had been to give a “stark warning” about fake news in the digital age.

But commentators said the jokes made in the show were “disrespectful” and in “poor taste”.

The watchdog is now deciding whether to take action.

In the video, the deepfake referred to rumours of rifts in the Royal Family, toilet roll shortages and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s number of children.

The computer-generated version of the monarch also gyrated to music while dancing on top of a desk to show off “moves for TikTok”.

While the message did not carry a warning that it had been faked, its ending revealed the conceit: an actress was shown seated in front of a greenscreen, having her face mapped to create the digital replica.

Deepfakes use technology to create what can be convincing digital copies of real people, which can be used to spread misinformation.

But in this case, Channel 4 said it should have been obvious this was not the real Queen.

“It is very clear in the four-minute film that it is a parody of the Christmas Day address and viewers were left in no doubt that it was not real,” a Channel 4 spokeswoman said.

“However, while the film is light-hearted, affectionate and comedic in tone, it carries a very important and timely message about trust and the ease with which convincing misinformation can be created and spread.”

The video forms part of a series of programmes examining the spread of misinformation, she added.

Some viewers expressed their distaste on social media, with some labelling the video as being “disgusting”.

Making “cheap jokes” about the Royal Family was in “poor taste”, Penny Junor, a royal biographer and commentator, told the BBC.

“The Queen has had a tough year and making those things into a national joke is tasteless.

“She has been extraordinary during the pandemic and shown real leadership and courage, stepping up at a time when many had lost trust and faith in politics.”

Ofcom confirmed it had received 214 complaints about the episode and was now consulting the Broadcasting Code to decide whether a formal investigation is required.

But this represents a relatively low number of complaints compared to:

A review in the Telegraph noted that Channel 4 had a remit to take creative risks, but criticised the script for its “toothless satire” rather than for being offensive.

Daniel Appleton guilty of murdering wife and pensioner

A man has been found guilty of beating an elderly woman to death with her own walking stick, before using it to murder his wife.

Daniel Appleton, 38, admitted the manslaughter of Sandy Seagrave, 76, and Amy Appleton, 31, in Crawley Down, West Sussex, on 22 December 2019.

However he denied murdering the women, claiming he had a psychotic episode.

Jurors at Hove Crown Court found him guilty on Tuesday and he will be sentenced on 25 January.

Appleton, of Hazel Way, Crawley Down, chased his wife out of their home and attacked her on their driveway, the court heard previously.

Ms Seagrave, who was passing by, saw what was happening and tried to intervene.

But Appleton turned his aggression towards the pensioner and murdered her with her own walking stick.

He then returned to his schoolteacher wife and bludgeoned her to death with the same stick, the court had been told.

Appleton had claimed he experienced a psychotic breakdown that was out of his control and brought about by stress.

However samples of his hair and nail clippings revealed traces of a psychoactive substance similar to LSD were in his system at the time of the murders.

Billionaire UK beauty boss continues expansion with US deal

Billionaire entrepreneur Matthew Moulding’s Hut Group has snapped up online skincare firm Dermstore from US retail giant Target for £259m.

Shares in the company – whose websites include the Lookfantastic beauty products business – soared more than 9% on the news.

Since it floated in September at 500p, its shares have risen more than 50%,

That triggered a massive £1bn payout for the boss, one of the biggest paydays in UK corporate history.

The company has grown rapidly by snapping up skincare and lifestyle brands while also operating online platforms for other brands.

It owns brands such as Glossybox and MyProtein and powers the websites of major businesses, including Honda and Nestle.

It said the purchase of Dermstore would “enhance its beauty strategy by substantially enhancing its relationships with the key global beauty brands”.

“A key driver behind the decision to list THG on the London Stock Exchange just over three months ago was to enable the group to make major global investments,” said Mr Moulding.

The Hut Group also added UK nutrition product suppliers Claremont Ingredients and David Berryman to its portfolio on Tuesday for £59.5m.

Claremont Ingredients operates a flavour manufacturing and development laboratory for sports nutrition and beverages, while the David Berryman business supplies and develops fruit-based ingredients.

Both companies had been suppliers for the Hut Group and the company said it bought them to support its commitment “to investing in and building best-in-class product innovation and manufacturing facilities”.

Mr Moulding founded the Manchester-based business in 2004 selling CDs.

It now runs more than 100 websites and sells a range of consumer goods, from cosmetics to protein supplements.

In addition to his £1m share payout, Mr Moulding is paid a basic salary of £750,000 a year, up from the £318,000 he took in 2019.

However, since the flotation, he has committed to donating his salary payments to charity.

Brexit: Landmark UK-EU trade deal to be signed

The UK-EU post-Brexit trade deal will be signed in Brussels on Wednesday by EU chiefs – before being flown to London for Boris Johnson to sign.

Downing Street said an RAF plane will transport the international treaty, accompanied by UK and EU officials.

It will come a day before the UK severs ties with the 27 nation organisation.

The UK Parliament is being recalled to vote on the agreement, which sets the rules for a new trade and security relationship between the UK and EU.

The deal was agreed in Brussels on Christmas Eve, following nine months of negotiations.

The European Parliament has begun its scrutiny of the agreement but will not get a chance to ratify it before the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union at midnight on Thursday.

The deal has, however, been given the unanimous backing of ambassadors from the 27 nations and the member states were set to give their written approval on Tuesday.

That paves the way for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel to sign the treaty on Wednesday morning in Brussels.

It will then be flown across the Channel for the UK prime minister to sign it in Downing Street, a No 10 spokesman said.

Both houses of the UK Parliament are set to vote on a bill putting the agreement into UK law on Wednesday.

MPs are set to debate the EU (future relationship) Bill for five hours, starting at 09:30 GMT, before a vote.

It is expected to clear the Commons with the backing of the opposition Labour Party, although some Labour MPs – and all the other opposition parties – are planning to vote against it or abstain.

It will then move on to the Lords, which is also expected to back it, before receiving Royal Assent.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hailed the deal, which comes four and half years since the UK voted to leave the EU and a year after it officially left, as the first of its kind in history.

The PM says it will deliver on his general election promise to “take back control” of the UK’s laws, borders, money and fishing waters.

And he claimed the £668bn a year agreement would “protect jobs across this country” and “enable UK goods to be sold without tariffs, without quotas in the EU market”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – who campaigned against Brexit – has described it as a “thin” deal which does not do enough to protect jobs, the environment and workers’ rights.

But he has ordered Labour MPs to back it as the only alternative was leaving without a deal, which he said would have been devastating for the UK economy.

Northern Ireland’s political parties that take their seats at Westminster will be voting against the deal – as will the Scottish National Party and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru.

It comes as the UK government announced it has signed a deal that will allow British businesses to continue trading with Turkey on the same terms after Brexit.

The tariff-free arrangements underpin a trading relationship which the UK government said was worth £18.6bn last year.

The government said both sides are “committed to working towards a more ambitious free trade agreement”.

The UK rolled over dozens of trade deals with countries around the world since deciding to leave the EU’s trading arrangements.

The vast majority of the 62 trade deals the UK has signed over the past two years have retained the same terms as before Brexit.

Cassette sales double in a year with Lady Gaga best-selling album on tape

Cassette tape sales are estimated to have doubled this year compared to 2019.

The British Phonographic Industry, which represents record labels, projects 157,000 tapes will have been sold in the UK in 2020.

That’s the highest number since 2003, when compilation Now 54 – featuring the likes of Busted, Girls Aloud and Oasis – was the biggest seller on tape.

Now, the top sellers are Lady Gaga, 5 Seconds of Summer and Yungblud.

Firstly, it’s important to note that cassette tape sales represent a tiny fraction of music sales this year.

They’re dwarfed by the 4.8m vinyls sold, which is the highest since the early 90s, according to the BPI.

Among the top 10 best-selling vinyls of 2020 were classic albums from Fleetwood Mac, Amy Winehouse and Nirvana.

Whereas all the albums in the cassette top 10 were 2020 releases – from artists such as The 1975, Blackpink and Selena Gomez.

Of course, the main bulk of music was listened to on streaming services – that accounted for 80%.

But cassette sales have been going up for a few years now, which BPI boss Geoff Taylor puts down to “the timeless appeal of collectable physical formats”.

That’s something Tallulah Webb agrees with.

She started her own label, Sad Club Records, four years ago, and they release all their music on tape.

“I think cassettes are the way forward for DIY artists,” the 23-year-old tells Newsbeat.

“It gives them something to put out physically, and it gives them a potential to make money.”

Tallulah adds that with artists not able to gig this year, fans have taken to other ways to supporting their favourite artists.

“People’s eyes open and realise they can’t just stream their favourite artists… they need to contribute a bit more.”

So why tape over other physical formats for some people?

Firstly, Tallulah says cassettes nowadays have much better sound quality than they used to.

She also works in a record store and thinks that the older people who come in still associate tapes with a hissy, lower-quality sound than vinyl or CDs.

But younger people don’t remember when tapes didn’t sound as good: “They’re the ones buying, because that’s they’re the ones thinking it’s really cool.”

That’s another reason tape may be making a comeback.

The vinyl revolution of recent years was partly fuelled by people looking for something different to digital downloads and online streaming.

Now vinyls are pretty widespread again, are tapes the new hipster medium?

“There is a bit of that,” says Tallulah.

“Some people are probably buying it to take pictures of it and put it on Instagram.

“But that’s not really hurting anything, and it’s still helping the cause.”

While Tallulah’s tapes are on a much smaller scale compared to the top-selling cassette artists, she thinks big acts releasing on tape help her record label too.

“When I started, it was a lot harder to sell them,” she says.

“Now it’s got a lot easier because people are seeing the larger artists doing it. So it has helped me.”

She adds: “I think people genuinely like the format.

“The amount of times I listen to a playlist on Spotify, and I skip a song… And then you put a cassette on, and you can’t skip it.

“There is something really nice about that.”

1. Lady Gaga – Chromatica

2. 5 Seconds Of Summer – Calm

3. Yungblud – Weird

4. The 1975 – Notes On A Conditional Form

5. Blackpink – The Album

6. Selena Gomez – Rare

7. Kylie Minogue – Disco

8. Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

9. Haim – Women In Music Pt III

10. The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive

Based on Official Charts data. Final figures will be confirmed on 4 January 2021.

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Listen to Newsbeat live at 12:45 and 17:45 weekdays – or listen back here.

Ryanair and Wizz Air deny votes to UK investors after EU exit

Airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air are to take away the voting rights of UK shareholders in order to protect their status as majority EU-owned companies.

UK and other non-EU investors will lose voting rights when the UK leaves the EU on 1 January.

By law, airlines operating flights in the EU must be owned by citizens of the EU or other affiliated countries.

Ryanair said it was banning its UK shareholders from attending or taking part in its general meetings.

Wizz Air said that if it did not take action, about 80% of its shares would be held by non-EU nationals. It said about 60% of its shareholder base would be sent restricted share notices.

Ryanair said in a statement to the London stock exchange: “These resolutions will remain in place until the board of the company determines that the ownership and control of the company is no longer such that there is any risk to the airline licences.”

The airline said it will not require British citizens to sell their shares, but will ban them from showing up to, speaking at or voting at shareholder meetings.

Another airline, easyJet, has already said it will restrict voting rights for some shareholders to ensure EU citizens own 50% of the company.