BORIS Johnson says anyone who thinks he covered up illegal parties in Downing Street during the pandemic is “out of their mind”.

Appearing on Friday Night with Nadine, a new chat show on TalkTV, the former Prime Minister also claimed that “Brexit helped save lives”.

Mr Johnson is due to appear soon before the Commons Privileges Committee investigating whether or not he deliberately misled the House over lockdown parties.

He told the show’s host, ex-Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries: “As you know there’s a parliamentary committee looking into some aspects of this and I had better be respectful of them.

“But I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before, and I hope it is obvious to everybody, that anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in Number 10, and then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to, that’s all strictly for the birds. If anybody thinks like that they are out of their mind.”

He praised the role of Brexit in tackling the pandemic, saying it was “absolutely the case” that lives had been saved by leaving the EU. Without the UK’s ability to do its own regulation the vaccine would not have been approved and rolled out so quickly, he claimed.

On the inquiry he went on: "I've got to wait for this thing to conclude. What I would say is that we all thought what we were doing - or certainly what we thought we were doing - was within the rules. What we certainly thought is that we were working blindingly hard on some massive priorities for the country.

“What we were doing was getting that vaccine rollout organised. We were thinking desperately about how to… went through lots of phases. How to ramp up testing, and all the rest of it.”

The former prime minister is expected to give evidence to the inquiry in the coming months.

He repeatedly told the Commons there were no rule-breaking parties in Downing Street, and that the rules had been followed at all times.

But the Metropolitan Police issued 126 fines for breaches of Covid rules, including to Mr Johnson himself, for offences spanning a series of gatherings in 2020 and 2021.

The Privileges Committee has been sifting through a mound of written evidence handed over by Rishi Sunak’s Downing Street.

If the committee rules Mr Johnson did lie to Parliament and a suspension of more than 10 sitting days is approved by the House of Commons, he could face a challenging by-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat.

Sir Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and Johnson critic who recused himself as chair of the Privileges Committee after it launched its partygate inquiry, said: “The thing is he point blank denied that they happened even though he attended them.

“And accounts of people being sick over the walls and drinking into the small hours at Downing Street suggest that the people who were out of their minds were Johnson and his Downing Street crew.”

Also in the extracts released ahead of the full broadcast of the interview with his former culture secretary, Mr Johnson claims “it is literally true that Brexit helped save lives” with the vaccine rollout.

The claim, which comes amid signs that Brexit support is waning around the third anniversary of the UK leaving the European Union, is contested.

Mr Johnson said leaving the European Medicines Agency meant the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was “totally free to decide how fast to approve the vaccine”.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do that vaccine rollout so fast,” he said.

“And you know, it is literally true that Brexit helped save lives. And people’s eyes bulge a bit when you say that, but it happens to be true.”

However, at the time, the UK was still in the transition period out of the EU and MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “We have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law.”

TalkTV, Friday, 8pm, February 3. On Sky 522, Sky Glass 508, Virgin Media 606, Freeview 237, Freestat 217, YouTube, TalkTV website and streaming platforms.