Also- Could you hazard a guess as to what steel exactly the top brands of woodworking tool use?
The earlier replies stated this. The most common steel is M2, especially in the UK where you reside. The vast majority of the Sheffield steel used by the likes of Sorby, Henry Taylor, Crown, Hamlet, Ashley Iles is M2.
Not sure of the Asia sourced tools. They rarely state the alloy, just "HSS" - if anything.
There are alloy steels and there are powdered metal steels like CPM-10V used by the likes of Doug Thompson.
As the other replies mentioned you have to look at the tempering of the metal in addition to the alloy/composition.
An earlier thread. A complicated topic.
Heat treating can make the metal hard but brittle, as mentioned earlier, or hard on the outside but soft on the inside, etc.
If you want to make you own tools, it is worthwhile to learn something about heat treatment, quenching, etc.